“Full and total support from Italy” for the work done in recent months by Europe’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton. This includes the creation of the European diplomatic service (the European External Action Service – EEAS) within the established timescale. Speaking was Foreign Minister Franco Frattini during a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Rome. The press conference was held jointly with the High Representative, who was attending the Ambassadors’ Conference. Baroness Ashton asked Italy for “the best”, pointing out that the positions to be filled include ambassadorial posts worldwide as well as positions in Brussels. She underscored that the EEAS will make Europe “more effective, by enabling it to become in political terms what it already is in economic terms, representing 500 million citizens”. She warned that “Europe will be judged by the efficacy of our external action towards our neighbours”.
Minister Frattini and the High Representative also addressed the Gaza question. Frattini explained that the European foreign ministers who will be visiting Gaza in early September do not intend to have any contact whatsoever with members of Hamas. He pointed out that Baroness Ashton has already visited Gaza twice “without having any formal contacts with Hamas”, since “that is the European Union line”.
For Frattini, Hamas is an organisation “that stands in opposition to what we deem to be the legitimate Palestinian authority. We want to support – certainly not weaken – the government of Prime Minister Fayyad and President Abu Mazen”. The Minister continued, “in Gaza we will have contacts with international organisations” operating in the region, for example the UN’s agency for the coordination of refugees.
Turning to the peace process, Frattini stated that “we are all working hard to ensure that direct negotiations begin between the Israelis and Palestinians”. He praised the High Representative’s “important, intelligent and courageous action”, thanks to which “for the first time, after all these years, the EU is playing a leading role”. Stating that it is “essential” to support the economy of the Palestinian territories, Baroness Ashton underscored that her priority is a “more effective European policy on the ground”.
The High Representative also mentioned the Iranian nuclear dossier, underscoring the need to “return to the negotiating table as soon as possible’. The sanctions recently adopted by the EU, she stressed, “are just one way to resume the dialogue”.