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Your Majesty, Excellencies,
It is indeed an honour to join your annual Summit for the second consecutive year – and let me sincerely thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for your invitation, and the Kingdom of Jordan for having inaugurated this practice, this summit last year, that we value enormously. I would also like to thank sincerely the Secretary general of the League of Arab States and all of you, for an excellent and constant cooperation between the European Union, the Arab League and our Member States.
To me, to us, this is the best possible response to our difficult and violent times. This region – our common region – has lived with conflict for too many years already. Yes, the terrorists of Daesh have almost been defeated territorially – and this is a good result, to be further consolidated through our common work. Let me pay tribute here in particular to the determination and courage shown by the Iraqi people and leadership - count on our support.
But the war goes on in Syria as well as in Yemen. And as long as these wars are not over, we will continue to face the risk of new escalations – and even of a larger regional confrontation.
Only a week ago, we witnessed once again the use of chemical weapons in the outskirts of Damascus. And we all agree that this is unacceptable, and that those responsible must be held accountable. Yesterday all the entire European Union and its Member States have confirmed our support to all appropriate and effective efforts aimed at preventing the use of chemical weapons.
At the same time, we know very well that the only solution to the war in Syria is political. After seven years, there should be no doubt about this. The only way to end the suffering is to relaunch and support consistently the Geneva talks, under the UN leadership. If the European Union and the Arab League join forces towards this goal, consistently, our leverage will be huge.
Next week, all the relevant international and regional players will gather for the second Brussels Conference on the future of Syria and the region, that I will have the honour to chair together with the United Nations. Let us use this opportunity to shift the focus on diplomacy and peacemaking. Let us choose the only path that can lead towards a peaceful, united, truly democratic and independent Syria. Let us have the parties start meaningful negotiations under the UN auspices.
There are too many conflicts in our common region. We, Europeans and Arabs, have a duty and an interest to seek common solutions. I am glad, for instance, that the Arab League and the European Union meet frequently to discuss the situation in Libya, and coordinate our work to stabilise and unite the country.
And it is particularly important, for us Europeans and for me in particular, that we are working closely together to try and restart a meaningful peace process between Palestine and Israel. Last month, I was honoured to host the six Foreign Ministers that on behalf of the Arab League are working on Jerusalem, for a meeting with all the 28 Member States’ Foreign Ministers of the European Union that I chaired. Such cooperation is more important than ever. The situation on the ground is getting worse and worse. Tensions are high on the border between Israel and Gaza. The viability of a State of Palestine – including Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – is being constantly eroded.
We, as European Union, will never, never stop working for a negotiated two-state solution – together with the Quartet (the United Nations, United States and the Russian Federation), together with the parties and of course with Arab countries.
As Europeans and Arabs we share in particular an interest in preserving the unique status of our common Holy City, Jerusalem. And you know, you can always count on us Europeans to reiterate our belief that the only viable solution is the two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine.
The Arab League has a unique role to play here. The Arab Peace Initiative is still, in our eyes, the essential building block towards peace. The King of Jordan is the custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem. Egypt is working to facilitate intra-Palestinian dialogue, towards the resumption of Palestinian Authority's full responsibilities in Gaza.
Your role is essential. And we, Europeans, have put on the table all our assistance support – first and foremost we are the largest donor to Palestine and to the UNRWA, and the main trade partner for Israel.
Our region today is, for sure, the most complex but also dangerous in the world. But a greater regional escalation can be avoided. Let me underline that we Europeans believe that Arab World could turn into one of the most prosperous, integrated, successful regions of the world. As we Europeans managed to do, after centuries, thousands of years of conflicts and wars - our continent has now turned into an island of equalities and development and rights. We've managed to do that because we were wise and pragmatic to choose cooperation, economic cooperation for compensation over tension.
This is why the European Union is already today accompanying so many partner countries in their economic and social reforms, from Tunisia to Lebanon, from Morocco to Egypt, and I could mention all your countries. Because we believe in investing in people, starting with our youth and our women, because it is the best way to create prosperous, proud, secure environment. So our cooperation goes way beyond our common work on security and still our common work will continue, to face crises as it is essential for our common security.
Europe and the Arab World share a rich common history, a rich common culture. We share the challenges and the crises, the challenges of today. Let us build together and build and share a prosperous future.