Vienna/Cairo, 13 November 2012 Press release

Spindelegger: "We are going to intensify the dialogue between the EU and the Arab League"

Vice-Chancellor at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Arab League and the EU in Cairo

Cairo, 13 November 2012 – "The Arab League has become a central factor in the Middle East. With this second ministerial meeting held today, we are highlighting that for us the League has gained profile as a partner. We have agreed today to intensify the relations between the European Union and the Arab League and to establish a working structure and regular political dialogue. We have also adopted recommendations for a common working programme in the fields of energy, culture, human rights, humanitarian aid, crisis management and election processes", Vice-Chancellor, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said in Cairo, where political representatives from 49 countries convened at the ministerial meeting between the EU and the Arab League.

The focus of the political part of the deliberations was on the civil war in Syria, the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that has come to a standstill, and the developments in Northern Africa.

"As far as Syria is concerned, we are all agreed that a cease-fire is more important than ever before to bring the bloodshed to an end so that the Syrian population is no longer forced to flee the country in thousands. The Arab League is as interested as the EU in preventing the violence of Syria from spreading to the neighbouring countries and destabilising the region further", Spindelegger said and continued: "The agreement in principle reached in Doha about the establishment of a National Syrian Coalition is a long awaited flicker of hope in the fight for freedom in Syria. The success of the new coalition will depend on its representativity and its clear position in matters of basic rights and rights of freedom. All groups of Syrian society need to be represented by it. This is the only way for it to become a credible alternative to the Assad regime."

In his address, Spindelegger made an appreciative assessment of the democratic developments in the region. He referred to the experience of Europe and said that Europe knows that the establishment of a democratic state under the rule of law is not an easy matter and requires patience. Spindelegger also mentioned the important role that women play in society and underlined that the democratic transition process will only be crowned by success if women are fully integrated in political decision processes. He stressed the particular importance of protection for religious and ethnic minorities. The Foreign Minister emphasised the importance of the intercultural and interreligious dialogue and informed his ministerial colleagues about the Austrian activities in this field.

A special input of Austria is the 2nd Arab-European Young Leaders Forum initiated by Austria and the Arab League that is currently also being held in Cairo (from 11 to 15 November). The Forum deals with issues of responsible leadership on the way to democracy and prosperity.

Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger met young leaders from the spheres of politics, business, and the civil society and was informed about the discussions and deliberations at the Forum. "The Forum offers a dynamic platform for young leaders from Europe, the Arab World and Turkey and promotes cross-border cooperation in politics, business and the civil society. The fact that the Forum is being held simultaneously with the EU - LAS ministerial meeting underlines the importance that the League attributes to this innovative form of cooperation", Spindelegger said. 25 European and Arab young prospective leaders from business, politics, science and the media aged between 25 and 40 are participants in the Forum.

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