Viano do Castelo, 8. September 2007 Press release

Plassnik: "Conflicts should be resolved, not frozen or petrified"

08.09.2007

Foreign Minister at informal EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Portugal

Viano do Castelo, 8 September 2007 - "Unity and determination - those are the two key words that characterise our discussion today and the direction of our future work," emphasised Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the second day of sessions at the informal foreign ministers' meeting, which was primarily devoted to the Kosovo question. "We are aware that we are dealing with a profoundly European task that we are working on in absolute earnest. The same earnest is called for on the part of our partners in Belgrade and Pristina. We are encouraging both of them to make real use of this negotiating opportunity," stated Plassnik.

"One-sided steps are no recipe for the future," said Plassnik, commenting on the possibility of unilateral measures. "What is now called for is a departure from old thinking patterns and the development of creative elements - including in the direction of an 'Ahtisaari-plus package', if necessary," continued Plassnik. "The permanent members of the Security Council, in particular, have a special responsibility in this matter. As the EU we shall continue our painstaking efforts to open up new negotiating space. We fully support Wolfgang Ischinger, the EU chief negotiator, in this new phase," stated Plassnik.

"The negotiating thread will last until 10. December. In this period, Belgrade and Pristina should be working to weave a fabric of good neighbourly trust. The EU does not want any frozen or petrified conflicts. The time for a solution has come. The status issue must be resolved. Serbia and Kosovo will not accede to Russia or the USA. Their future direction is towards the European Union," emphasised the Foreign Minister.

Asked to comment on President Prodi’s letter in which he suggests awarding Serbia candidate status, Plassnik referred to the current negotiations on a stabilisation and association agreement. "Here we must proceed step by step. Candidate status is not a political favour we grant, but requires the meeting of precise criteria. We don’t want to create the impression that there is an option or trade-off between Kosovo on the one hand and the path to the EU on the other," stated Plassnik.

Commenting on the Middle East, the Minister talked of a "difficult situation". She referred to the tight rhythm of meetings between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert and the current preparations for an international Middle East conference. "All sides must try to set the multilateral dynamics in motion once more. A window of opportunity could open up now provided both sides - Israelis and Palestinians - show the necessary political will", said Plassnik, emphasising the importance of including Syria in a comprehensive peace settlement. "Syria could send out an important signal by supporting the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming elections in Lebanon. This would be another important piece in the Middle East puzzle. Syria deserves acknowledgement and support for its treatment of Iraqi refugees," concluded Plassnik.

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