Cairo, 22 October 2007 Press release

Plassnik: "Egypt - an important mediator at the crossroads between Europe, the Middle East, and Africa"


Foreign Minister visits Egypt for political talks

Cairo, 22 October 2007 - "With its experience as a peacemaker, Egypt continues to be an important and committed mediator in the Middle East peace process. It is therefore for good reason that Egypt is host of the Arab League - and, furthermore, the chairman of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, is a former Egyptian foreign minister", said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik yesterday in Cairo after a meeting she had with her Egyptian colleague Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, and the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa.

"The Middle East peace process is at a decisive crossroads. For the first time in years, a meeting planned for late November in Annapolis represents a realistic chance to get substantial peace negotiations going. A determined engagement by the U.S. will be equally crucial as the support from regional powers like Egypt", said the Foreign Minister.

"Egypt is a major player not only in the Middle East, but also in the relations between Europe and Africa. In Sharm-el-Sheik, for instance, a meeting of foreign ministers will take place on 4 and 5 December in preparation of the EU-Africa summit", said Plassnik, adding that "Egypt is one of the EU’s most important partners in the Barcelona process and in the Union's policy towards its neighbours in the Mediterranean".

"In Egypt’s tailor-made action plan with the EU, we jointly set up a work programme and defined specific objectives to further deepen our increasingly close cooperation. The EU intends to support Egypt in implementing its national reform programme, e.g. in the fight against poverty and towards an increase of living standards", said the Foreign Minister. The joint programmes include projects on education reform, for the promotion of health care, for strengthening the judicial system, or the development of democratic and human rights institutions.

Egypt is also the home of the Anna Lindh Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, which Austria will support financially as part of the official visit: "In the dialogue between religions and civilizations, Egypt and Austria can make an important contribution towards better understanding and greater respect for each other. We intend to energetically continue the engagement we introduced together", Plassnik concluded.

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