Remarks by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy

Monday 23:23:06
April 16 2012

Remarks by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy

following the meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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Brussels, Mr Secretary-General, It is a pleasure to welcome you to Brussels. I very much appreciated our discussions here today on a wide variety of issues.

First, let me again reaffirm the strength and solidity of the EU-UN relationship. The European Union continues to be a strong supporter of effective multilateralism. You can therefore be assured that Europe and the EU will continue to be closely engaged with the United Nations on issues of peace and security, in promoting universal values, human rights and democracy, on combating poverty, famine and climate change and in protecting our environment.

Let me also add, that we share, Mr Secretary-General, your vision and priorities that you have set out for the coming 5 years.

Second, we need to continue our work together in keeping up the pace of democratic transformation in the Arab World. We need to support the economic and political transition processes in countries such as Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Libya.

The situation in the region makes all the more important to keep up the engagement in achieving Israeli-Palestinian and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace through the work and our cooperation within the Quartet. The resumption of direct talks remains our top priority. The EU played a major role in this respect.

On Syria, the unacceptable situation early on prompted the European Union to impose sanctions and to call on the international community to join our efforts.

The priority now must be to ensure a complete cessation of violence in Syria and to allow for full and unhindered access to humanitarian aid. Here the UN is key. And here, I would like to acknowledge both Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s and your, Mr Secretary General, personal efforts in working for peace in Syria.
I strongly welcome the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council authorising the deployment of unarmed military observers. This is an additional important step in the implementation of Annan’s six-point plan. And it is also a long awaited development for the Syrian people. In light of the fragile cease-fire, the government of Syria needs to comply fully and immediately to Annan’s plan.

Hopefully this resolution will open the way to full-fledged UN observer mission in Syria. The resolution presents a call from the international community to the Syrian regime to stop violence against its population and to address urgent humanitarian needs. The regime should take this opportunity to change course, and fully cooperate with the initial observer team. As I told the Secretary General, the EU stands ready to support the observer mission in any way.

Third, on Iran, the EU is deeply concerned over the nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. The EU has introduced robust restrictive measures, which is of key importance to convince Iran to return to the negotiating table. The talks this weekend lead by High Representative Ashton in Istanbul give us reason to be hopeful on the objective of engaging Iran in a sustained process of serious dialogue on the nuclear issue.
Forth, on North Korea, the EU deplores the missile launch last week. This is a clear violation of North Korea’s international obligation. We call on North Korea to refrain from any other destabilising act.
In addition, the North Korean human rights situation and the problem of hunger and malnutrition of the people remains a grave concern. This should be the first priority for North Korea, not missiles and nuclear weapons.
Fifth, on Africa, we have been following with great concern the recent developments in Mali and in Guinea Bissau, which go against the wave of democratisation in the African continent. It is of utmost importance that the legal, democratic order is restored. We welcome the African initiative to support democracy.
Similarly, I expressed my concern about the worsening relations between Sudan and South Sudan. All parties must refrain from violence and work for a peaceful settlement. The international community invested a lot in the peace process and the population already suffered too much.

We also condemn in the strongest terms, the coordinated attacks of Afghanistan. We will have the opportunity to discuss these issues in detail at the next NATO summit.

Mr Secretary-General, your visit here today illustrates the rich and comprehensive nature of the EU-UN relationship. I look forward to continued close cooperation on all these issues - and on many more - in the years to come. Thank you.

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