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Belgium, Brussels, Permanent Representation of the Republic of Bulgaria

Foreign Ministers of EU and Arab League meet in Brussels

04 February 2019 News

The fifth meeting of the foreign ministers of the EU and the League of Arab States (LAS) took place in Brussels today.

The Bulgarian delegation was headed by Ekaterina Zaharieva, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The meeting was co-chaired for the EU by the High Representative, Federica Mogherini, and for the LAS, by M.A. Al-Dirdiri, the Foreign Minister of the Sudan, and Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Secretary General of the League of Arab States.

The purpose of the meeting was to review the progress made in relations between the EU and the LAS, and to discuss how best to join efforts in tackling regional issues of mutual interest. The meeting constitutes an important step in the preparations for the upcoming First EU-LAS Summit, scheduled to be held in Egypt on February 24-25. The forum will provide a unique opportunity for the EU and its member states to reiterate their commitments to the Arab partners, with a view to encouraging the kind of relations that the EU already has in place with other regional alliances.

‘This meeting of ours today is positive proof that despite the existing differences between us, we are in a position to pursue an honest and open dialog. Only thus can we attain positive results, guided by our common interests,’ Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said in her statement. She expressed confidence that in a spirit of cooperation and mutual trust the parties could find the right approach to dealing with issues of mutual interest while overcoming the existing challenges. In this context she recalled that the EU and the LAS encounter a lot of common problems related to the socio-political transformations, the growing religious radicalism and nationalism in the quest for a new identity in response to globalization. Minister Zaharieva appealed to both organizations for unity, recalling the famous motto ‘Together we stand, divided we fall!’

In her expose she dwelled upon the regional conflicts in need of a peaceful political solution: Syria, the Middle East peace process, Libya and Yemen. Bulgaria’s top diplomat underscored that the EU and the LAS should deepen their cooperation in areas like counterterrorism, conflict prevention, early warning for crisis management, humanitarian assistance, cross-border organized crime, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Illegal migration, human trafficking, economic and social insecurity, and climate change all require a multilateral response, based on solidarity and shared responsibility. Our two regions are trading and investment partners with long-standing economic and commercial ties between them. The socioeconomic advancement, stability and prosperity of the region of the Middle East and North Africa is among the long-term goals of the EU.

‘I am confident that today’s meeting will contribute to raising our relations to the next level, and to the security and prosperity that our peoples deserve,’ Deputy Prime Minister Zaharieva also stated.

The League of Arab States is one of the oldest regional political organizations in the world. After 2011, relations between the EU and the LAS have entered a new stage with the establishment of high-level dialog focused on the regional challenges and maintained through regular meetings. Since 2012, four meetings have been held in ‘foreign minister’ format. The Athens Declaration (2014) launched a Strategic Dialog between the EU and the LAS, focused on political and security issues. The relations between the LAS and Bulgaria are governed by a Memorandum of Understanding, signed in 2012 in New York during the 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly. The Memorandum contains clauses providing for cooperation in the political, economic and cultural spheres.

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