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It is really a pleasure for me to welcome the Jordanian Foreign Minister and our good friend, Ayman [Safadi] - it is a pleasure to have you here with us today, extraordinarily in Luxembourg.
We just concluded our 13th EU-Jordan Association Council that was extremely positive. Minister Safadi participated also at the working lunch with the EU Member States’ Foreign Ministers where we had a very important and useful conversation about regional and international issues. In particular the focus was on the Middle East peace process, where our positions are aligned and where we see no viable alternative to the two-state solution, with the state of Israel living side by side to an independent, democratic, sovereign and viable State of Palestine in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank once again - as we always do - His Majesty [King Abdullah II] and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for the special role as custodian of the Holy Sites. This is particularly important for the European Union and we stand by Jordan in this important responsibility that His Majesty has.
With Jordan we also share a commitment to continue to support UNRWA [The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East], politically and financially. I would like to thank personally Minister [Ayman] Safadi for his dedication to this work, as we see the work of the Agency as crucial for the security and the stability and peace in the region.
We also discussed the situation in Syria, in particular the follow up to the Brussels III conference [on supporting the future of Syria and the region] we had last March. Also here we stand side by side in the imperative of having a UN-led process to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254. And let me obviously mention the important work that Jordan is doing to host Syrian refugees. Also here the European Union stands by Jordan, in particular by their hosting local communities that have all our support.
We also discussed our bilateral partnership - our friendship I would say. We expressed satisfaction with the progress we have achieved in our common work to implement our Partnership Priorities. We focused on different areas of cooperation where we see concrete results coming from our partnership, in particular regional security, stability and counter-terrorism, where results are to be assessed. But our work is definitely making things better than if it was not there. We discussed at length our economic cooperation, in particular for job creation and opportunities for the younger population and the strengthening of the rule of law, human rights and democratic governance.
Allow me to finish on a very concrete positive note. The Foreign Minister [Ayman Safadi] and I just signed before the beginning of our plenary session a Framework Participation Agreement on the participation of Jordan in the European Union crisis management operations. This allows the secondment of Jordanian personnel to the European Union missions and operations, both civilian and military. This is the 19th agreement of this kind that the European Union has with a third country but this is the first ever in the region of Middle East and North Africa. And I think it is only natural that we signed it with a partner that is so close to us as Jordan is. So thank you also for that and looking forward to continue working so closely together.
Q. Both Jordan and European Union are the most supportive for the international legitimacy when it comes to the Palestinian issue but others. The problem is that both of you are going to attend the Manama conference while the first interested, the Palestinians, are not attending this conference? Can you explain this kind of paradox to me?
The European Union has been invited to participate atthe workshop that is going to be convened in Bahrain. We are considering the level of attendance that might be most likely a technical level. We are always interested in getting more insights on possible steps or plans that can be put forward.
But I can tell you this casts no shadow whatsoever on the strong and clear European Union commitment shared by all Member States on the need to have a political solution for the creation of a Palestinian state. As I said, living side by side with the Israeli state, with a clear status for Jerusalem, and with respect to the international parameters that are clearly known.
The participation at technical level at a workshop does not infringe on any of these very clear commitments. As you said, the European Union is and remains a strong supporter of the internationally agreed parameters for the solution of the Middle East peace process, no doubt on that.
Q. Has the US asked for an EU economic contribution to its peace process so far? Would the EU consider that or would that be impossible unless the US unveiled a political process ending in a two-state solution?
As you know the European Union and the Member States are collectively – if I am not wrong, but Commissioner Hahn can confirm this – the largest contributors to not only the budget of the Palestinian Authority, but also the projects that have been put in place so far for the Palestinians and the region, starting with UNRWA [the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] and beyond. When it comes to our commitment to the financial support of projects on the ground, there is absolutely no doubt about the fact that we are the solid and reliable foundation for any of these projects.
We have discussed with a US delegation that was led by [Senior Adviser to the President of the United States, Jared] Kushner a few weeks ago in Brussels some elements of the economic part of the plan the US are elaborating. I will be in Washington D.C. tomorrow and I will have an opportunity to discuss, among other things, also this.
In the absence of details or of a general political framework, as Minister [Ayman] Safadi mentioned, there is no intention and also no way for the European Union to commit to any such contribution. As you know very well, for the European Union, contributing to a project is always based on a very concrete, detailed assessment of what the project is, in what kind of framework it happens, who is implementing it on the ground and so on. For the moment it seems to me that we are at the stage of the presentation of ideas. We are always interested in listening, but again the support we are giving financially on the ground is massive. It is for the moment channelled through the Palestinian Authority, the UN agencies and our support to the regional partners.
But I would like to stress one point that Minister [Ayman] Safadi made perfectly well and for which he could have spoken also on behalf of the European Union. For us there is no way in which any economic plan, as important as it can be, can substitute the political solution of this too long conflict that is not impossible to solve. We all know very well what the parameters are. It requires political will and an international and regional environment conducive to the establishment of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security. For us, even if we are the major economic contributor so far and we will continue to be, the economic support is no substitute for the political solution.
Q. If I understand correctly, you do not even have the headlines of this American proposal. Do you accept to go to the workshop in Manama while you do not have the headlines of this proposal nor any detail about it?
As I said, a delegation from the United States recently visited Brussels on the 4 June to present to us the main features of the economic part of the plan they have been working on. We have some elements of it. I understand that some elements are there, some elements might not be completely 100% ready yet or are at least in the making.
To my understanding the workshop in Manama is meant to present and explain the economic part of the plan in details to those that have been invited to attend. So, we will go there to continue engaging in understanding of what is in it, without any commitment from our side to support it or participate in it.
We made it very clear to our American friends but also publicly – it is no mystery - that we would not engage in supporting any economic activity if the political framework in which this might happen is not clear.
First of all, I appreciate our American friends briefing us and sharing information but this does not mean that the European Union is going to support anything, if we do not share the political framework in which this happens. Most importantly, for us, again as we already have our very important and very solid - I would say massive in this respect - economic engagement, there is no way in which we are going to substitute the kind of projects we are financing, especially with the lack of a clear political horizon.
For us the political horizon - no mystery about that - is the two states, a clear role for Jerusalem as the capital of both the state of Israel and the state of Palestine in the future, the recognition of the internationally agreed parameters and the Arab Peace Initiative.
On this, I have to say we are happy to be closely aligned with our Arab friends that can count on the Europeans and the European Union to fully support their requests for, I would say, the only sustainable and viable solution that is the two state solution.
For the European Union, that is the political framework, whatever economic support will have to fall into that.
Q. On the visit to Washington about Iran, is it possible to defend a nuclear agreement and avoid a military escalation in the region tomorrow and in the next talks?
L'Unione europea è determinata a continuare garantire la piena applicazione dell'accordo nucleare iraniano. Voglio precisare il fatto che abbiamo sempre valutato il rispetto dell'accordo nucleare da parte dell'Iran non sulla base di dichiarazioni ma sulla base delle verifiche fatte dalla AIEA [Agenzia internazionale per l'energia atomica], che è l'agenzia che ha la capacità tecnica e l'indipendenza per fornire fatti e valutazioni oggettive sul rispetto da parte iraniana degli impegni presi sull'accordo nucleare.
Il nostro lavoro come Unione europea, come stati membri dell'Unione europea, insieme a Russia, Cina e alla gran parte del resto della comunità internazionale continuerà ad essere per il pieno rispetto dell'accordo nucleare iraniano. E' una questione di sicurezza per noi europei, per la regione del Medio Oriente. Cercheremo anche di evitare pericolose escalation nella regione del Golfo che certamente potrebbero provocare danni in una regione già troppo tesa.