Wien, 17. October 2006 Press release

Plassnik: "Diplomatic work with Iran requires a great deal of patience"

17.10.2006

Foreign Minister Plassnik on the key items on the agenda at the Council of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg

Vienna, 17 October 2006 - "I regret that Iran has not responded positively to the "Vienna package" of 1 June. Austria remains convinced that this comprehensive offer is and remains especially advantageous for the Iranian population as well as for the regional perspective", said Minister for Foreign Affairs Ursula Plassnik in the lead-up to the meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg today. "As regards the nuclear issue we have made it clear throughout that the diplomatic work will be continued within the UN Security Council format should Iran not agree to this offer. This is now the case. The door to dialogue and negotiations remains open to Iran. Everything possible will be done to bring about a diplomatic solution", Plassnik continued.

"The EU in particular has a good understanding of Iran's significance and is making patient attempts to widen and deepen the dialogue. At least a minimal step forward in our contacts with Iran, which require a great deal of patience, is the agreement on a concrete date for the human rights dialogue at expert level between the EU and Iran, which is to be resumed before the end of this year after a longer interval", Plassnik went on. The Foreign Minister recalled that the resumption of this dialogue had been a particular concern of the Austrian EU Presidency, which had succeeded in reaching agreement with Tehran on the modalities of the dialogue.

With regard to the Middle East, the Foreign Minister expressed her disappointment at the lack of progress. "Nevertheless, we should not allow ourselves to be discouraged by the fact that the efforts to form a government of national unity for Palestine are not making headway from the current position. Persistent efforts aimed at the resumption of the peace process foreseen by the Road Map are the only thing that can move the region forwards. Besides the unconditional release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, there is also an urgent need for action regarding the Palestinian tax and customs revenues that are still being withheld by Israel and the Palestinian political representatives who are being held in custody. Both the Palestinian government and Israel must quickly initiate confidence-building measures to counteract the increasing instability in the Palestinian Territories", emphasised Plassnik.

"The talks on the status of Kosovo are now entering their decisive phase. There are important course-setting decisions ahead in the coming weeks. We have full confidence in the efforts of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, who possesses the necessary tact and sensitivity of an experienced negotiator", the Foreign Minister stressed with reference to the Kosovo status negotiations, which will also be discussed at the Council meeting. "Our concrete concern at this point is to illuminate the road to Europe for Pristina and Belgrade. Particularly in this phase, which is so critical for Serbia in terms of domestic politics, it is important that we maintain the necessary insistence. But one thing has to be clear: we can hold out our hand to Serbia and show it the way, but it has to walk the road by itself. And first it has to do its homework, which above all includes full cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The Serb government still has a lot of catching up to do in this respect. Within the EU there is certainly no impression that the efforts made to date have been sufficient", stated Plassnik.

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