Verklaring van Buitenland-chef Ashton na afloop van Raadsvergadering (en)

Met dank overgenomen van Raad van de Europese Unie, gepubliceerd op maandag 23 januari 2012.

EUROPEAN UNION

Brussels, 23 January 2012

Remarks by HR Catherine Ashton following the Foreign Affairs Council, 23 January 2012

Today we have covered Iran, Burma/Myanmar, Syria, the Middle East Peace Process, Belarus, and the events in Sudan and South Sudan. We also discussed the concerns we have not least about the events in Nigeria over the weekend, on freedom of religion and faith and belief

We have adopted tough new sanctions on Iran, because of the concerns we have over their nuclear programme. Many of you will have seen the IAEA report which highlighted our concerns

We have added additional restrictive measures in the energy sector, including a phased embargo on Iranian crude oil imports to the EU, and in the financial sector, including against the Central Bank of Iran, while ensuring that legitimate trade can continue under strict conditions. And the decisions will be published in the Official Journal tomorrow

I want to stress however that sanctions are not an end in themselves. I have often talked about this being part of a twin track approach. The purpose of sanctions is to put pressure on Iran to come back to the negotiating table, a message that I have sent consistently through as many channels as I possibly can: including a letter to Dr Jalili, the chief negotiator, on October 21; in my conversations with Dr Salehi, the Foreign Minister of Iran; and through many other interlocutors who have dialogue with Iran

We want to see them come back and either pick up the proposals we have put on the table in Istanbul a year ago and look at those as potential confidence building measures, or come with ideas of their own. I hope that Iran will respond positively to the letter and messages that I have sent and come back to the negotiating table

We are extremely concerned about the situation in Syria. I spoke with Nabil el Araby, the Secretary General of the Arab League, this morning before the Foreign Affairs Council to express to him our support for everything that he is trying to do through the Arab League

In our discussions today we have expressed our continuing concern for what is happening in Syria and I hope that Nabil el Araby will seek from the UN Security Council support for their initiative

We have added 22 individuals and 8 entities to our sanctions list today and we will continue to engage with the opposition to do whatever we can in support of the people of Syria and the initiatives that others are taking

We have talked about the remarkable transition in Burma/Myanmar, in particular on three fronts: the dialogue between Government and opposition is ongoing; the peace process under way between Government and different ethnic groups; and the significant number of political prisoners released

We are strongly encouraging this process. I have decided to open an Office in Yangon, and we are planning more aid and support especially to support the Human Rights Commission and to support those ethnic communities in Burma/Myanmar

We have launched a full review of our policy towards Burma/Myanmar, and today we have suspended the visa ban for a group of top officials, including the President

In consultation with Aung San Suu Kyi I will visit in April after the elections, when I hope we will have had the chance to review what has happened and make decisions at an EU level on our response to what I hope will be continued progress

We have talked over lunch about the Middle East Peace Process and the work that the King of Jordan, to whom I pay tribute, has instigated in bringing together the negotiators from Israel and from the Palestinians. I will travel tomorrow to the Middle East. Today was an opportunity to catch upon different views around table, but showed continued support to try and find a way through and a two state solution

We have also touched upon what has been happening today in Egypt. It is an historic day: the first meeting of the new People's Assembly. We discussed our desire to see the continuation of democratic reforms. And I am looking forward to the upcoming elections to the Shura Council on the 29 January

On Belarus, we discussed our continuing desire to engage with the people of Belarus and our continuing concern that the government of Belarus does not respond to the needs of its people and to the important issues that we have raised consistently with them

In Sudan and South Sudan, where concerns both internally in both countries and between the two countries continue to preoccupy us. This is, of course, an area that we will return to in our discussions in the near future

I think there was also a great sense of optimism in the Foreign Affairs Council today that we will see both Serbia and Kosovo move forward in their relationship with the EU. I think there is a great desire to see Serbia fulfil the commitments that we have asked them to make, continue the dialogue with Kosovo and move forward in a way that would enable us to make a decision on candidate status at the Council in February

Robert Cooper will this week travel to the region. He will talk both in Belgrade and in Pristina about what needs to happen next. I think the general mood of the Council was that this can be done; a strong desire to see things move forward

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