Brüssel, 12. July 2004 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner at General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels

12.07.2004

EU Foreign Ministers met with new Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari

Brussels, 12 July 2004 - Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner commented on the key topics discussed at today’s meeting of the External Relations Council in Brussels. With respect to the main item on the agenda, Iraq, Ferrero-Waldner stated: "I am pleased that we had the opportunity to discuss the situation in Iraq with new Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari. We welcome the fact that the transformation process in Iraq is now in the hands of the Iraqi people. At the same time, we are, of course, aware of the great challenge which the support of the transition process in Iraq poses to both the European Union and the international community. It was important to obtain information from the Iraqi side regarding their immediate needs so that we can intensify further preparations and implement the plans for the transition. I am especially pleased that Austria has made the offer to train Iraqi soldiers in Austria."

With regard to the West Balkan, Ferrero-Waldner stated that the EU Foreign Ministers welcomed the victory of Boris Tadic in Serbia’s presidential elections. "By voting for Boris Tadic the Serbian people have decided in favour of the reform policy and a European future for Serbia". The Austrian Foreign Minister added: "If Serbia makes concrete progress with its political and economic reforms and fulfils international obligations, the European Commission could positively conclude its feasibility study on opening negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement." The EU Foreign Ministers had adopted a joint campaign to launch an EU-led military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina to replace SFOR, which is under NATO command. Austria plans to participate with 150 soldiers in EUFOR ALTHEA. With regard to Kosovo, Ferrero-Waldner stressed the importance of lending "comprehensive and firm support" to Jessen-Petersen, the new special envoy of the UN Secretary General.

The EU Foreign Ministers welcomed plans to hold presidential elections in Afghanistan in October 2004. "This is an important step towards the reconstruction and stabilisation of the country." Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner was also pleased that the European Commission had prepared a comprehensive set of measures to lend political and organisational support to the Afghan government in holding the elections.

During the meeting of the External Relations Council, 29 October 2004 was fixed as the date for the signing of the new Constitution.