Brussels, 13 September 2004 - Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner today took part in the deliberations of the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels. The main issues dealt with at the council meeting included the Iran issue, the security situation in Iraq, the further course of action in Sudan/Darfur and the methodology applied to the Community’s Financial Perspective for 2007 - 2013.
As has already been the case at the Gymnich meeting, the current state of affairs in Iran constituted one of the central topics of the deliberations. In this context, special attention was given to the current situation of the Iranian nuclear programme which was discussed in the light of several reports on this issue: the report of the Dutch President of the EU Council Bernard Bot, who has met the chairman of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rohani; the report of the Foreign Ministers of Germany, the United Kingdom and France on their meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Kharazzi; and the latest report of IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei. "In my opinion, the IAEA constitutes the ideal forum to clarify these questions", Ferrero-Waldner said. "We therefore fully support the work of Director-General El Baradei". Iran must meet its obligations to the full, and it is absolutely necessary and more urgent than ever that the IAEA settles the questions that are still open.
Unfortunately, the human rights dialogue with Iran did not make any significant progress, the Foreign Minister said. This impression was confirmed on Friday during a talk with the Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. The human rights situation in Iran remains critical, and in some aspects it has even deteriorated further. Ferrero-Waldner stressed that it was therefore very important "to support and encourage committed activists such as Ms. Ebadi". With regard to the Iraq issue, the Foreign Minister referred to the quarterly report of the UN Secretary-General, which confirms the continued precarious security situation in Iraq. To improve the bad security situation is of utmost priority, particularly as security and stability are indispensable preconditions for the holding of the elections as planned at the beginning of next year. In this context, Ferrero-Waldner emphasised the important role Iraq is playing in this process. "The more the Iraqi side can contribute to improving the security situation in the country, the greater will be its credibility among the citizens and the more firmly established its position in the country," stated Ferrero-Waldner.
"A significant contribution to the improvement of security and stability is the strengthening of the political transformation process and economic reconstruction", the Foreign Minister continued. "We also have to assist Iraq in solving its social problems - particularly the problem of unemployment; too little or no work at all constitutes one of the main reasons for the current frustration felt by many Iraqis." By participating in the training programme of Iraqi police officers in Jordan, Austria has made a significant contribution to civilian crisis management right from the outset. Another option that could be envisaged is the training of Iraqi troops in Austria. Moreover, in the course of the reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the Austrian Foreign Ministry has suggested to the Iraqi government to set up a special programme for young Iraqi diplomats at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
With regard to the situation in Sudan/Darfur, the Foreign Minister stated that "Darfur has been the scene of serious human rights violations", which "have to be investigated with regard to the allegation of genocide." At the same time, every possible effort must be made to provide urgently needed humanitarian aid to the people in Darfur. Austria’s contribution amounts to 1.2 million Euro made available by the Federal Government. Ferrero-Waldner also thanked the Austrian broadcasting company (ORF), which, in co-operation with various humanitarian organisations, has started another "Neighbour in Need" donation campaign to raise money for Darfur.
Ferrero-Waldner also reported about the EU Foreign Ministers’ deliberations on the Financial Perspective 2007 to 2013. Today’s discussion was restricted to the methodology that is to be applied; Austria supports the approach of the Dutch EU Presidency, the so-called building-block approach, and considers it a reasonable course of action.