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March 29, 2023

ForMins of Romania, Austria and Lithuania ended South Caucasus diplomatic tour on behalf of EU: We passed a message of European solidarity and commitment

During talks with Georgian officials in Tbilisi on Saturday, Romanian foreign minister Bogdan Aurescu highlighted the risks posed by the protracted conflicts on Georgian territory and the area to regional security and stability and reiterated Romania’s and the European Union’s support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of this state within its internationally-recognised borders.

Aurescu together with his Austrian and Lithuanian counterparts Alexander Schallenberg and Gabrielius Landsbergis were on a diplomatic tour of South Caucasus by virtue of the coordinated mandate with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. The tour was the first concrete outcome of the debates at the Informal Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers (Gymnich format) in Lisbon on 27 May.

On Friday in Yerevan and Baku, the three ministers had talks with high officials from Armenia and Azerbaijan, respectively, reiterating the priority given by both the European Union and member states to the stability and security of the states in this region, including through enhanced involvement to find sustainable solutions to protracted conflicts. According to a statement from the ministry in Bucharest, Aurescu conveyed the European Union’s commitment to continue efforts to diffuse tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with solutions to achieve this including Azerbaijan’s release of the persons detained in last year’s conflict and Armenia’s release of the map of land mines. Sensitive subjects were tackled relating to general conflict regulation, such as humanitarian access to the region affected by the conflict, demarcation of borders and the pull-out of troops from the border area, with minister Aurescu singling out the processes in which the European Union may become involved, Radio Romania International reports.

“This is the first joint visit to the Eastern Neighbourhood by a group of European Foreign Ministers, coordinated with and mandated by the High Representative, Josep Borrell.  I believe it was a very successful endeavour, especially as the challenges faced by our Eastern Partners are high on the EU agenda.  This tour allowed us to pass a message of European solidarity and engagement, on behalf of the EU and the Member States. At the same time, we conveyed a message of the EU commitment to prioritize the security, stability and prosperity of all three Southern Caucasus countries we visited. And the determination for the European Union to be more and more actively involved in the process of settling the protracted conflicts in this region, which has a geostrategic importance for the EU as a whole,” Romanian Foreign Minister told a press conference on Saturday at the end of the diplomatic tour.

He recalled that on behalf of Romania, already last year, in October, he promoted the idea, which was supported by ten other EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs, of having an in-depth discussion at EU level on protracted conflicts, which affect many of the countries in the Eastern Neighborhood and have been hindering these countries’ development perspectives for decades.

“In this context, it is particularly important to mobilize the EU’s attention on these issues, to identify the best ways of using EU instruments and cooperation formats to support the affected countries. We had insightful discussions last month, at the Gymnich meeting in Lisbon, when we have decided to strengthen our political support to the Eastern Partners. And this tour is, in fact, the first concrete follow-up to the discussion we had in Lisbon,” Romania’s top diplomat also stated.

“We encouraged our partners in the South Caucasus countries to make best use of the instruments provided by the Eastern Partnership framework, in order to strengthen regional cooperation, to the benefit of peace and prosperity and, also, ultimately, to the benefit of the people. So in all three countries, we have expressed support for the possible creation of a regional format, including all three of them, with EU facilitation and support,” he added during the joint press conference with his Austrain and Lithuanian counterparts hosted by the the EU delegation in Tbilisi.

“In the timely discussions with our interlocutors in all three capitals, I have reaffirmed the view on the importance of their active involvement in the perspectives of the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit. In view of this Summit, it is essential to endorse a common, ambitious vision on the Eastern Partnership, for the coming years”.

He emphasized that from Romania’s perspective, as he  proposed at European level, he  will promote the need to develop a security dimension within the Eastern Partnership.

“We had, in all three capitals, substantial and very productive talks with our high-level interlocutors. In Azerbaijan, we met the President and the Foreign Minister. In Armenia – the Acting Prime Minister and the President and here, in Tbilisi – the Prime Minister and our colleague, the Foreign Minister, David Zalkaliani”.

“In Azerbaijan, we have expressed the fact that we consider that this country has a key role in the stability and prosperity of the South Caucasus and expressed the hope that the new EU-Azerbaijan Agreement, currently under negotiation, would be concluded swiftly, and thus providing an updated, modern framework to further guide our cooperation. And we have agreed, with President Aliyev, to resume, swiftly, the negotiation process. We hope that this agreement will be concluded by the end of this year, “ Aurescu stated.

“In Armenia, I have congratulated Prime Minister Pashinyan for his party’s victory in last Sunday’s parliamentary elections and commended the good organization and the democratic character of the elections, as highlighted by OSCE/ODIHR and other international observation missions. I highlighted my belief that further modernization and democratization of the country, through a continuation of the reform process already initiated by the previous Government, should become the new strategic objective for Armenia, capable of uniting the efforts of all political forces, to the benefit of the Armenian people, “ he added.

Romania’s Foreign Minister also stated that in both countries, Azerbaijan and Armenia,  the group of EU Foreign Ministers  had in-depth talks on the current situation and on the perspectives of moving forward, following the last year’s military confrontation. “We called for a constructive spirit and for rebuilding trust, because confidence-building measures, such as those related to the release of all detainees and the handing over of all maps of mined areas, remain a priority. EU is ready to continue to help and support such evolutions. So, we underlined the EU’s readiness to provide support, upon request, on all matters that might lead to a negotiated, sustainable and lasting settlement of all pending issues. I have underlined the need for reconciliation between the two societies, which is a process which will take probably some time and a lot of efforts, but there is no other option,” Aurescu stated.

Last but not least, he reiterated  Romania’s strong support for the European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Georgia.

“This  was a very successful diplomatic tour in the South Caucasus and we will inform our EU colleagues and the High Representative, Josep Borrell about the results during the next Foreign Affairs Council meeting on the 12th of July.(…) “This has shown that Romania is pro-actively engaged in the region and that we have a well-acknowledged contribution at the European level regarding our Eastern Neighbourhood and our partners. And I am glad that, in this way, we can come with a solid contribution to the realization of European foreign policy,” Aurescu concluded.

Photo: www.mae.ro


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