On the Initiative of Bulgaria and Austria, the EU Foreign Ministers Discussed the Progress of the Republic of Macedonia
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The EU Foreign Ministers discussed the European integration progress of the Republic of Macedonia at a breakfast meeting in Brussels today, and at the ensuing Foreign Affairs Council, they held a debate on the latest developments surrounding Iran, the situation in Venezuela following the elections there, the escalation of tensions in the Gaza Strip, and the preparation of the new agreement with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

On the initiative of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva jointly with her Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl, the Union’s chief diplomats held a breakfast meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov. He briefed his colleagues on the progress of the name negotiations with Greece, saying that he expects a positive development. Dimitrov thanked the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council for the positive atmosphere created in the region, for placing Western Balkans integration high on the agenda, and for the fact that Bulgaria is a good neighbour.

“I would like to thank all colleagues for the support for the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia. The good news is that our colleagues Dimitrov and Kotzias have reached agreement in principle on the name and expect their prime ministers and governments to approve it and make it public,” Zaharieva said.

At the ensuing Foreign Affairs Council, the chief diplomats of the Twenty-Eight exchanged views on the latest developments surrounding Iran within the context of the US decision to withdrawn from the agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme. Ministers unanimously reiterated that preserving the JCPOA is key for peace and security in the region and that the EU will stay in the agreement as long as Iran remains fully committed to it. The EU will continue engaging the US on the issue.

“Unfortunately, we do not think that the US can possibly change its position and stay in the agreement. On the other hand, Iran does not wish to sit around a table with the US. We have two options: either try to keep the agreement, or suspend it, which automatically entails a resumption of Iran’s nuclear programme,” Ekaterina Zaharieva commented after the Council.

Foreign ministers voiced concern over the escalation of tensions in Gaza, stressing the need of restraint and non-use of violence. Support was expressed for the measures to alleviate the severe humanitarian situation in Gaza, proposes by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov. An emphasis was laid on the importance of the international community supporting the activity of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The EU reconfirmed its position that a lasting stabilisation of the situation in the region can only be achieved by finding a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.

Ministers also discussed the situation in Venezuela within the context of the presidential and regional elections held on 20 May 2018. It was stressed that the entire electoral process was compromised and the balloting does not conform even to minimum standards for fair, free and democratic elections. The EU confirmed its readiness to help find a way out of the political and humanitarian crisis in the country.

The EU chief diplomats also exchanged views on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, stressing the importance of holding fair, free and democratic elections according to the approved electoral calendar in December 2018.

The Council held a debate on authorising the European Commission to open negotiations on the future partnership with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries after the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement.

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