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EU delays talks with Arab League over Syria’s return

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks during a press conference at Cairo’s Foreign Ministry on June 18, 2023. (AFP)
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks during a press conference at Cairo’s Foreign Ministry on June 18, 2023. (AFP)
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20 Jun 2023 02:06:08 GMT9
20 Jun 2023 02:06:08 GMT9
  • Damascus ‘making no efforts to solve conflict,’ says foreign policy chief

Gobran Mohamed

CAIRO: The EU has postponed a ministerial meeting with the Arab League due to be held this week because of Syria’s readmission to the pan-Arab body, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

Borrell said that Syria had been readmitted to the Arab League despite the regime making no “meaningful efforts toward solving the conflict.”

However, he highlighted the EU’s keenness to strengthen its relationship with the Arab League.

Borrell’s remarks came in a joint press conference with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit following talks on Sunday.

He said the Arab League is an important partner of the EU, and over the years Brussels has cooperated with it on important issues, such as terrorism, human rights and the peace process.

However, he added: “The Arab-European ministerial meeting was scheduled to be held this week, but it was decided to postpone it due to Syria’s readmission to the Arab League.”

Borrell said: “The readmission of Syria is a sovereign decision, and we respect it. But this decision was taken while Damascus has not made any efforts to alleviate the conflict.”

In May, the Arab League readmitted the Syrian regime, ending a more than decade-long suspension and securing President Bashar Assad’s return to the Arab fold after years of isolation.

He said the position of the EU will not change unless Damascus makes progress in implementing UN resolutions, especially Security Council Resolution 2254.

The EU and the Arab League decided to postpone the meeting at the request of the EU, he said.

“But at the same time, I came here today to confirm that the EU wants to deepen its relations and dialogue with the Arab League,” Borrell said.

Regarding the talks with Aboul Gheit, he said: “We discussed the status of the peace process in the Middle East and the next steps.

“We are cooperating to create a new moment, and we are cooperating with the Arab League and Saudi Arabia (in its capacity as the current chair of the Arab Summit) in this regard, and we hope to move forward and achieve effective steps.” 

On Sudan, Borrell said: “We discussed developments in the situation and welcomed the results of the Jeddah initiative, as well as the cease-fire that entered into force.”

He added: “We discussed the repercussions of the Russian attack on Ukraine,” noting that this crisis had a major impact, “first on the Ukrainian people, as 5 million people have been displaced, including 4 million hosted by EU countries.

“This crisis also had impacts on energy and food security, which affected the Arab world.” 

He said the EU is helping efforts to secure global food security, whether through funding or support to facilitate the export of about 30 million tons of Ukrainian grain.

The EU stands behind the 10 peace points outlined by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he said.

Aboul Gheit said that he agreed with Borrell on the need to boost relations between the Arab League and the EU in all areas of common interest.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stressed the importance of the extended relations and partnership between Egypt and the EU.

The Egyptian minister’s statement followed talks with Borrell in Cairo.

Shoukry said the talks touched on bilateral relations in addition to regional issues of common interest, including the Palestinian issue, the situation in Sudan, Libya, the eastern Mediterranean and immigration.

He said the EU and European Commission provide a lot of support to Egypt, whether in terms of development, security or immigration, adding that the partnership agreement, which dates back about 20 years, has brought important returns.

Borrell described relations with Cairo as of “strategic importance for the EU.”

He said Egypt is an important partner for the EU regarding renewable energy.

“We seek to expand the horizons of joint cooperation and overcome challenges to reach the highest levels of understanding and coordination in this field,” he said.

On Sudan, Borrell said: “Egypt hosted more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees during this crisis.”

He said the EU will provide urgent assistance worth €20 million (SR82 million) to help meet the needs of the Sudanese refugees on the Egyptian borders.

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