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Thank you very much.
We had a full day of meetings with the Foreign Ministers.
First of all, we had a good discussion on how to continue our work to preserve in full the nuclear deal with Iran. We had unanimity among Member States on the need to, on the one side, make the instrument we have put in place – INSTEX (the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) - faster and more operational to have legitimate trade with Iran. A number of Member States have shown their willingness to become shareholders of this instrument and there is also the possibility for non-Member States to join. And on the other hand], to continue working for Iran’s return to full compliance with the nuclear deal. We will continue to work within the framework of the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on both these tracks of work. I just came back from the region and I have seen that everybody is very much aware of the need to have the JCPoA fully in place and to have Iran fully compliant with its nuclear commitments, as it has been since the beginning until a few weeks ago.
We then had a useful point on Iraq. I was in Baghdad on Saturday and I briefed the Ministers about the developments I have seen, especially on the improvements of the security situation and the need to support the country more. You can see the Council Conclusions that we adopted that indicate our willingness to increase and deepen our cooperation with the country.
We then hosted the new Foreign Minister of the Republic of Moldova [Nicu Popescu] for a conversation with him on the new orientation and the new priorities for the government, the implementation of our Association Agreement. I know Commissioner [for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes] Hahn has already made an important announcement on budget support that we are restoring.
We then had a point on the Central African Republic. I was there also a few days ago. I proposed to the Ministers to increase our cooperation with the country at a moment that is critical for the implementation of the peace agreement. We will come back with concrete proposals, especially on our work with our mission [EUTM RCA] there that is training the militaries and also with the possibility of developing a police component for that.
Finally, last but not least, we had another discussion on the external aspects of migration. Here I have seen a positive convergence of Member States on the need to tackle the issue more effectively. We have had, in particular, a discussion on how to improve a few points on our common action that is already in place: first of all, the need to finance more our [EU Emergency] Trust Fund [for Africa]. We have something like 209 projects already in place for a total of €4 billion for countries of origin and transit. This has allowed us to decrease the number of irregular arrivals, but also to save many lives both in the desert and at sea.
These funds are now about to end. I have asked the Member States to be consistent and pledge new resources so that we can continue our programmes or start new programmes in the countries of origin and transit, otherwise we risk having to stop cooperation with countries of origin and transit. That would be definitely a step backwards and would have negative consequences on our cooperation with countries of origin and transit. I hope they will be consistent on that.
We also discussed the need to increase and accelerate resettlement of persons that are in need of international protection, be they in Libya or Niger or elsewhere. We also discussed the need to ask or to expect from our colleagues, the Interior Ministers who are meeting in Helsinki in a few days for their informal meeting, to advance on agreements on disembarkation so that this issue can be tackled on a regular basis. This is not the competence of Foreign Ministers, but there was a strong wish from the Foreign Ministers to see advancements on this. Obviously, that would be also something that would allow us to move forward – possibly – on the return of naval assets of [EUNAVFOR MED Operation] Sophia at sea. That would be important not only for managing migration, but also for implementing the arms embargo that is very much needed off the coast of Libya now.
I think I will stop here and leave space to your questions.
Q. You spoke about “legitimate trade”: do you mean that at some level the INSTEX instrument will cover oil trade? On INSTEX you refer to third states: does that mean that today there is a political decision that INSTEX will be open to third countries?
INSTEX has always been conceived to be open to third countries. The Member States that have set it up with our support have always indicated that, first, we start with processing transactions coming from the Member States, and then it can be open for third countries. This is therefore not a decision that needed to be taken, it was already intended to be open to third countries and we are already seeing interest of some of them to participate in that.
The issue of whether or not INSTEX will deal with oil is a discussion that is ongoing among the shareholders.
I can tell you that for the time being we have Member States that are either already shareholders or interested in becoming so - ten Members States who are shareholders and others actively considering joining - and we have the first transactions that are being processed currently. Obviously, it takes time because INSTEX as a mechanism has to be very careful about due diligence, but the first transactions are being processed currently.
Q: On Iran – what would it take for the EU or the E3 to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism? It seems pretty clear that there is no rush to do so and it may not happen for a while, but what would it take if it does not take two violations of the nuclear deal? Last week the E3 and the EU called for an urgent meeting of the Joint Commission [on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPoA], but we still do not know when it is going to be – maybe you can enlighten us?
A meeting of the Joint Commission might come, the time and level is still to be defined. We are coordinating this obviously not only with the E3 [France, Germany, United Kingdom], but also with the other two members of the Joint Commission [Russia, China].
When it comes to the dispute resolution mechanism, Article 36 of the Agreement - it is the mechanism that is foreseen in the Agreement, in case of significant non-compliance. For the time being, none of the parties to the Agreement have signalled their intention to invoke this article, which means that none of them is – for the moment, for the time being, with the data we had in particular from the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] – considering the non-compliance a “significant” non-compliance. We have also noticed that all the steps that have been taken by Iran are technically reversible.
We regret those steps and we invite Iran to reverse them and go back to full compliance. I want to be clear on that: we want to see Iran go back to full compliance as it has been in these years.
Let me add that I have seen in my conversations with many interlocutors these days, including from the region, that everybody, including those that were more critical about the agreement, are today urging Iran to respect the deal, even those that were criticising the deal as not being effective. The reality is that the deal has prevented Iran developing a nuclear weapon. It has been effective and I think that everybody recognises that there is today no alternative to that deal. It is extremely important to keep it in place at full. I can also say that a full implementation of the Agreement to which we are definitely committed as Europeans and I would say as an international community at large, is also key in keeping the situation as calm as possible in the region and avoiding escalation in a critical region for our security.
Q. Ethiopia and Sudan were also on the current affairs agenda. I would like to know more about the issues that were discussed on each of these countries.
During the discussion on current affairs at the beginning of the Council, we were touching upon the situation in Sudan, not on Ethiopia. In particular, the Foreign Minister of Finland [Pekka Haavisto], who was mandated by me to be in the country in these recent days, briefed the Ministers on the recent developments. We have welcomed the positive steps that have been witnessed by the European Union. We are also ready to support a civilian government in the moment it will be in place. Obviously, we will look very carefully at further developments, hoping that these first steps will consolidate into a full civilian transition. This is what we wish for the Sudanese people to see in place in their country, and it is also a wish our friends in the African Union have expressed.
Q. I understand that today the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, Josep Borrell, has asked for sanctions of the EU against those responsible for the torturing to death of the Venezuelan military Rafael Acosta Arévalo while in custody. Is this something that the EU should indeed advance with? Or do you think that it is something that might be seen in Caracas as something that could damage the Oslo Process? Would you like to comment the report that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights [Michelle] Bachelet published about the quite dire situation in the country?
First of all, regarding the support to the work of Michelle Bachelet - and this has been also expressed unanimously by the European Union on behalf of all 28 Member States at the Human Rights Council in Geneva - you will see in the coming hours a declaration I will release on behalf of the 28 on the situation in Venezuela that will cover all these aspects.
But I can already tell you our position is extremely clear on two lines. One is the full support to the Oslo talks currently ongoing, but on the other side also a very firm stance when it comes to the violation of human rights and in particular the killing of an army captain [Venezuela Navy Corvette Captain, Rafael Costa] that we have commented immediately through a statement, and will also be an issue that will have to be considered carefully by Member States.
Sanctions are part of our tool box. As you know we have some sanctions in place, targeted measures, I want to stress this because none of our measures affect the population of Venezuela, on the contrary we're providing humanitarian help. But the instrument of targeted sanctions against individuals that have specific responsibilities in the violation of human rights are part of our measures and can be added in case Member States consider it appropriate.
I also want to say that if we see positive developments they can also be lifted. It is as usual an instrument that can increase pressure but it can also be used to acknowledge progress, in the case where progress is made.
Q. Pour l'Iran, est-ce que vous pensez que c'est la dernière heure ou la dernière minute de l'accord qui est venue?
Premièrement, sur l'accord nucléaire avec l'Iran, je dirais qu'il n'est pas en bonne santé mais il est encore vivant. Quand on est dans cette situation c'est difficile, et pour le moment ce n'est pas approprié, de faire des spéculations, de discuter de combien d'heures, de jours, de semaines, de mois ou d'années on a encore devant soi. Mais je tiens à souligner qu'il est vrai que les conditions sont très compliquées, probablement plus compliquées et plus difficiles que jamais depuis la signature de l'accord il y a maintenant quatre ans précisément hier, le 14 juillet.
C'est probablement le moment le plus difficile depuis ce moment-là, mais je tiens à souligner que l'accord est encore en place et c'est encore l'instrument que nous allons utiliser et que nous utilisons maintenant pour régler la question nucléaire avec l'Iran. Je ne saurais dire si c'est la dernière heure, j'espère que non, parce que je vois que les raisons rationnelles pour que l'accord reste en place sont là et sont partagées par tous les acteurs qui font partis de l'accord et mêeme par ceux qui ne font pas ou plus partis de l'accord.
En République centrafricaine, pourriez-vous donner des détails sur l'ampleur de la nouvelle mission civile qui va être engagée, quand cette mission pourrait être en place, combien d'hommes pourraient être déployés sur le terrain, et le profil, l'objectif recherché avec cette mission?
Sur la République centrafricaine, premièrement je voudrais dire un mot sur le travail vraiment exceptionnel et incroyable qu'est en train de faire notre mission d'entrainement [EUTM RCA] présente sur le terrain. En République centrafricaine, j'ai eu l'honneur et le plaisir de lancer le programme d'entrainement de 1000 recrues dans l'Ouest du pays avec le Président [de la République centrafricaine, Faustin-Archange Touadéra]. C'est un travail très important que nous sommes en train de faire, donc nous allons continuer ce travail de formation des forces de défense, y compris certains des ex-combattants des groupes armés, ce qui est très important pour la mise en œuvre de l'accord de paix de février.
Nous avons discuté avec le Président [Touadéra] et le gouvernement de la nécessité que nous voyons, et premièrement qu'ils nous ont exprimés, d'avoir un complément de travail sur l'aspect civil de la sécurité. Nous allons à présent discuter avec les Etats membres des détails de cette mission civile que j'espère pouvoir lancer dans les prochains mois, avant de partir.
Je ne peux pas partager des détails qui ne sont pas encore définis mais le but serait de renforcer la capacité de l'Etat en accompagnant la réforme très nécessaire du secteur civil et de la sécurité dans le pays, et c'est aussi une façon extrêmement importante d'accompagner la mise en œuvre de l'accord.
Q. La rallonge de 138 millions d'euros, pouvez-vous nous dire sur quels postes de dépense vont être attribués ces ressources additionnelles sachant que la menace terroriste et les conflits intercommunautaires sont encore une réalité dans la région du Sahel.
Avant de me rendre en Centrafrique, j'ai eu une réunion très importante avec les Ministres des affaires étrangères du G5 Sahel. On en a parlé avec les Ministres des affaires étrangères aujourd'hui parce que c'est une réunion que l'on a chaque année, régulièrement, depuis que j'ai commencé mon mandat donc c'était notre cinquième réunion ministerielle que l’on a eu. C'était aussi la suite d'une réunion ministérielle que l'on a eu ici à Bruxelles en mai avec les Ministres des affaires étrangères et de la défense du G5 Sahel et des 28 Etats membres de l'Union européenne.
J'ai rapporté aux Ministres des affaires étrangères des 28 aujourd'hui les résultats de cette réunion ministérielle que l'on a eu à Ouagadougou il y a quelques jours. Nous avons discuté de comment rendre plus efficace notre action commune surtout sur les aspects de la sécurité et du développement.
C'est au G5 Sahel et à ses pays d'identifier les priorités – et les zones de priorité surtout -, les fragilités et les actions clés et prioritaires en particulier la nécessité de rétablir une présence de l'Etat dans les zones fragiles. Je pense par exemple au centre du Mali mais aussi à d'autres zones fragiles où la présence de l'Etat doit être restaurée soit en termes de services déployés soit en termes de présence des forces de sécurité civiles, et aussi en termes d'exercice de la justice et de lutte contre l'impunité.
Nous avons discuté avec les Ministres du G5 Sahel de la nécessité qu'ils définissent – la question de l'appropriation est très importante pour nous – les priorités en termes de zones fragiles et d'actions prioritaires à court terme. Sur la base de ces priorités et plans d'action, nous avons indiqué la disponibilité de mobiliser ces 138 millions d'euros additionnels qui vont aller financer des actions concrètes, mesurables et immédiates avec une logique de soutien que normalement nous utilisons pour l'aide humanitaire - court terme, résultats immédiats et mesurables - parce que nous constatons la dégradation des conditions de sécurité dans certaines zones en particulier et nous voulons donc soutenir davantage de façon efficace l'intervention dans certaines zones.
J'ai aussi eu l'opportunité durant cette visite de visiter le centre du Mali et je me suis rendue compte lors de mes rencontres avec les leaders des différentes communautés que de soutenir le dialogue entre les communautés, et entre les communautés et l'Etat central. Cela sera aussi une des questions prioritaires sur laquelle nous allons concentrer notre travail.
J'aimerais conclure par dire qu'une partie de ces 138 millions d'euros additionnels disponibles mais pas encore déboursés – cela dépendra du plan action qu'ils vont élaborer – sera dédié à la composante police de la Force Conjointe du G5 Sahel parce que la sécurité n'est pas seulement l'armée, il y a également une composante police civile qui est très importante surtout pour rétablir un état de confiance de la population envers les forces de sécurité. Nous sommes disponibles à soutenir ce travail.
Q: On Iran. Are European countries ready to pre-order Iranian oil as a concrete measure to show the Iranians that they are committed to preserving the deal?
I think I have already answered that question. The shareholders of INSTEX are currently discussing whether the instrument can be used for that as well or not.
Q. Avez-vous discuté des activités de forage par la Turquie? Est-ce que les mesures proposées par la Commission et le Service européen pour l'action extérieure ont reçu le soutien des Ministres?
Les Ministres ont adopté des conclusions sur cela que vous allez voir dans les prochaines heures, donc vous pourrez voir vous-même le contenu de ces conclusions qu'ils ont agréé.
How much money has passed through the INSTEX system already and to what extent does it cover Iranian expectations? Can you also reveal the name or the countries who are eager to join this system from outside the EU?
No, I cannot. If you ask about which entities are involved in the process I could not answer it either for protection of commercial interests in this case. And when it comes to non-EU Member States - third countries - that are interested in participating, I cannot do that. They can if they want, but it would not be appropriate for me to disclose this information from our side.
To what extent is INSTEX meeting the Iranians expectation? Also on this you should ask the Iranians and I guess you would get a clear answer. Obviously, the European Union and the Member States - because here we are talking about trade measures and trade activities that are coming from entities from EU Member States - know that all our activities would probably not compensate or not get to the level of compensation that follows the decision of the United States. Still, our intention is to try to mitigate the impact of the United States’ decision to re-impose sanctions and to stop implementing the Agreement. So we are trying our best to mitigate the impact of the US’ decision and to compensate for these decisions as far as we can in the market system we are living in.
It is complicated. It has proven to be complicated. I can tell you that when I announced INSTEX in September last year in the margins of the UN General Assembly after a Joint Commission [meeting], we definitely expected this to be faster. So it was not only an Iranian expectation back then, but it was also our expectation that it would have gone faster than it has proven to be. But the issues at stake have been particularly complicated. I think that they are now resolved. So it will, again, take some time to complete the processing of the transactions that are currently being processed, but now it is in place.
So, on Iranian expectations: we are doing our best and we hope that this will be enough for Iranian public opinion and the Iranian authorities to realise that - as much as we are committed to the full implementation of the JCPoA because we know this is in our own interest and it is in the global collective security interest of the world - it is also in the Iranian interest to go back to full compliance and preserve the JCPoA as a multilateral agreement.
Q. Especially when it comes to the United States you have been very diplomatic in your wording in relation to the Iran nuclear deal. Is there an argument that there has not been enough push-back from yourself against Washington in relation to the Iran nuclear deal? And even today we might see indications from your would-be successor, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, Josep Borrell, that perhaps he will be a little bit tougher against the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, and his administration in terms of EU-US relations. Could you have been tougher with President Trump?
I do not want to be diplomatic but I am really saying this: the United States are our best partner and ally. Even if we disagree on some issues, we continue to work very well on others and this friendship stays.
I do not think it is a matter of being tough on one another. The point is to preserve the space for the JCPoA to remain in place. Iran has stayed fully compliant with its nuclear commitments under the JCPoA for 14 months after the US decided to withdraw from the Agreement. We have stayed compliant and the rest of the international community has stayed compliant. This has been thanks to our work.
Sometimes it is more useful to focus on the positive work you can do, on what you can do, your own measures: setting-up INSTEX, working with Russia and China in the Joint Commission, working with other partners that are commercial partners of Iran to keep the channels open, not only with Europe but also with the rest of the world, rather than entering a dispute with someone that disagrees with you on this particular topic.
My approach has always been this: rather than focusing on the negative, trying to focus on what positive you can build. And I think that for 14 months we have managed to hold all of this together. Again, as I said, even if I think this is the most dramatic and difficult time, I also think that today everybody realises that not having the JCPoA in place anymore would be a terrible option for everybody, including those that have decided to get out.
So I prefer to encourage positive developments rather than using the mental category of fighting or pushing back. At the end of the day it is an effort to hold pieces together sometimes and this is what we have been doing and this is what we will continue to do.