The situation in North Korea (Pyongyang has crossed the “red line”) joins the crisis in Syria, relations between the two shores of the Mediterranean and the Iran question on the agenda of the European Union Council of Foreign Ministers, where Italy will be represented by Under-Secretary Marta Dassù.
Meeting with Brahimi
A meeting with UN and Arab League Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will offer the first opportunity for a European level discussion of prospects for the Syrian crisis since the 28 February Rome meeting from which a more marked American contribution began to emerge, and whose strong message for the resumption of the political process and concrete material support for the opposition coalition was embraced in recent days by the international community.
Another hot topic of debate will involve recent developments in the three North African countries that triggered the Arab Spring, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, which have been the focus in recent months of intense Italian diplomatic activity, culminating with Minister Terzi’s visit to the three capitals, along with continuing bilateral, regional and multilateral contacts. Terzi has repeatedly stressed the need for strong European support for stability in Egypt, a country pivotal to regional balances.
Developments in Tunisia, which set off the Arab Spring and where the formation of a new government was recently announced, will also be an item on the agenda of a Europe called upon to make a greater contribution to supporting economic recovery.
Minister Terzi has also repeatedly voiced Italy’s willingness to maintain a guiding and driving role in Europe’s continuing support for the stabilisation of Libya. As the head of Italian diplomacy pointed out a few days ago in New York to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Italy, a top contributor to Libya’s democratic transition with over €55 million, intends to reinforce collaboration with the UN mission led by Tarek Mitri. The mission is crucial to ensuring the necessary consistency and efficiency to international aid, and Italy is also ready to do its part in making the civil security and border control assistance mission that the EU will be implementing in the coming months a success. Another opportunity for dialogue and support for the Libyan authorities will come with the second International Conference on Libya that Italy has offered to host.
The situation in Mali will also have its place on the meeting’s agenda, with an intervention by EU High Representative Ashton on the latest, encouraging developments on the ground.
The agenda will include an exchange of views on EU-Russian relations, ahead of the next European Council meeting of 15-16 March. Italy has encouraged Russia and the European Union in the constructive pursuit of a strategic partnership, given the vast range of interests involved: liberalization of visa policies, energy, modernization and the rule of law in the European region.
Baroness Ashton will also update the European ministers on developments regarding two of the Union’s main international dossiers: the Iranian nuclear question and facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, now at a decisive stage.
Iraq’s political framework will also be the focus of a perceived need for more incisive EU efforts at fostering national reconciliation and institution building.
EU-Japanese relations will occupy the attention of the foreign ministers also, who are to prepare the 25 March Tokyo summit where negotiations for a Framework Agreement and Free Trade Agreement are expected to be launched.