Wien, 19. November 2004 Press release

Javier Solana met with Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik

19.11.2004

Talks centred on the situation in the Middle East and topical issues relating to South East Europe

Vienna, 19 November 2004 - Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik received the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and designated EU Foreign Minister, Javier Solana, for a working discussion in Vienna today. Their talks focused on the situation in the Middle East following the death of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, the recent developments in Iraq and the role played by the EU in the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme, as well as on topical issues relating to the situation in South East Europe and the Sudan.

"The wider implications of the death of Palestinian President Arafat for the situation in the Middle East are not yet foreseeable. I do, however, hope that all stakeholders will use this turning-point as an opportunity to give a new impetus to the peace process", Plassnik stated, pointing out that she also expects the new Palestinian leadership to implement the urgently necessary reforms. In the light of the latest developments the Foreign Minister and Javier Solana discussed the latter’s assessment of the current situation, including the High Representative’s views on the prospects for further implementation of his recently submitted Four-Point Plan for a new start in the Middle East.

With respect to Iraq, Plassnik stressed that the holding of the elections scheduled for January 2005 represented the next decisive step towards a successful process of political transformation, in particular emphasising that "stability and security in Iraq and the entire region have an immediate impact on Europe. For this reason we are undertaking every effort to contribute to the stabilisation of the situation."

Referring to Iran’s nuclear programme, Plassnik welcomed the agreement on the suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities negotiated by the EU-3 and High Representative Solana with Iran. "What is of decisive importance now is that the agreement is actually implemented", the Foreign Minister emphasised, also drawing attention to the important role played by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency in this connection.

Another key item on the discussion’s agenda was the situation in South East Europe. "This region will remain a central concern for Austria, both in political terms and with respect to security policy, and we are keeping a close eye on developments, particularly in Kosovo", Plassnik stated. Referring to the unsuccessful referendum on the Ohrid Agreement in Macedonia, the Foreign Minister pointed out that it was encouraging that all political parties have now firmly expressed their will to implement this agreement, which provides for a better protection of minorities and the decentralisation of the state. Concluding, Plassnik emphasised that Austria is fully supporting Macedonia in its efforts aimed at establishing closer ties with the European Union.