The EU Foreign Ministers will gather for a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 23 April. Finland will be represented at the meeting by Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja. The meeting agenda is broad. The topics of discussion include Syria, the Middle East peace process, Iran, Burma and Afghanistan. The Foreign Ministers will also deal with the situation in Mali, the region of Sudan and South Sudan, and Guinea-Bissau.
The Council will discuss the situation with respect to Syria, in particular implementation of the peace plan devised by UN and the Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and the progress in handling of the Syrian situation by the UN Security Council. Also up for discussion is the possibility, if needed, of further expansion of the EU sanctions set because of the situation in Syria. In connection with the outlook for the Middle East peace process, the discussion will focus especially on development in the Palestinian territories and the EU’s potential to influence the economic situation, among other things.
The Foreign Ministers will discuss the situation in relation to the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme held most recently in Istanbul on 13–14 April. High Representative Catherine Ashton leads these negotiations, as the representative of the so-called E3+3 Group (France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, Russia, China)
The discussion on Burma/Myanmar will deal with the recent positive political developments relating to the reforms and the successful parliamentary by-election. It has been considered important in the EU to send a positive message in response to the implementation of reforms. The intention is therefore to suspend the majority of the sanctions imposed by the Union. Afghanistan will be discussed in preparation for future international meetings, including the NATO Summit in Chicago. Central theme in the discussions is development of the Afghan security forces.
The Foreign Ministers will also discuss the tense relations between Sudan and South Sudan with a view to encouraging them to return to negotiations. Also on the Council’s agenda is the situation in the Sahel region, focusing on recent events in Mali, the military coup and the subsequent declaration of independence in the northern parts of the country. The Council strives to support the West African Economic Community (ECOWAS) efforts to ease the situation in Mali. The Foreign Ministers will also deal with the situation in Guinea-Bissau.
Additional information: substitute European correspondent Johanna Birkstedt, mobile tel. +358 40 352 3556, and Katja Pehrman, Diplomatic Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, mobile tel. +358 40 181 9257