Lappeenranta, 1. September 2006 Press release

Plassnik: "Chance to open a new page in the Middle East"

01.09.2006

Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik at informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers

Lappeenranta, 1 September 2006 - "The EU will make a contribution not only in military and security terms but also at a political level in order to renew a political process in the Middle East. All participants in today’s meeting have agreed on this," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik after the first day of the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Lappeenranta.

In a difficult environment Europe has made a resolute and consistent contribution to defusing the situation. We have proved to be a reliable partner. Our commitment is appreciated in the region," emphasised Plassnik.

The Foreign Minister said that the EU had made an important contribution to the drawing up of UN resolution 1701, which had put a halt to the bloodshed in Lebanon. The EU would also continue its humanitarian commitment both in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories. "At the donors’ conference in Stockholm Austria mobilised an additional 400,000 euros, which will be used mainly for demining in Lebanon. The Austrian Federal Government responded swiftly already in July - at the most difficult stage for the civilian population - by providing emergency aid in the amount of 500,000 euros," said Plassnik.

"Now there is the chance to open a new page in the Middle East. The difficulty of mobilising moderate forces in the region is obvious. But there is a need to systematically counteract the massive radicalisation of the Arab public," continued the Foreign Minister.

At this stage it was particularly useful to activate the Middle East Quartet as an international coordination tool, continued Plassnik. "However, this does not relieve the partners in the region from making their own contribution. In this respect, the EU has formulated clear expectations. This holds true for Hamas, for instance, which can become a partner of the EU only if it recognises the principle of renouncing violence, acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, and accepting existing agreements," said Plassnik. In this regard the Foreign Minister emphasised the EU’s clear and unchanged stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, maintaining that the EU would "continue its resolute support for a negotiated settlement based on the two-state principle".

"The invitation to return to the negotiating table still holds," said Plassnik in reference to Iran. "I call for patience and careful consideration of the next steps. We need patience and endurance. However, our concern about the exclusively peaceful use of Iran’s nuclear programme has not diminished. The most recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also confirms that this question has not been answered with sufficient clarity," concluded the Foreign Minister.

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