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Ordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels

14 November 2023 News

Deputy Foreign Minister Elena Shekerletova presented Bulgaria at today's regular November meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels. The first diplomats of the member states discussed developments in Israel and the region, the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, Armenia-Azerbaijan relations and other topical issues on the foreign policy agenda. 

Under the first item on the agenda, the Council discussed the current situation in Israel and the Middle East region following the Hamas terrorist attacks of 7 October 2023, in which more than 1 200 Israeli and foreign citizens were killed. Deputy Minister Shekerletova informed her colleagues about the visit to Israel of Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mariya Gabriel on 6 November 2023. ‘Bulgaria stands in solidarity with the Israeli people at this difficult time, we respect Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism and we call for the release of all hostages taken by Hamas,’ Deputy Minister Shekerletova said. It is also important to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in Gaza, including the establishment of humanitarian corridors and pauses, she added. Highlights of the discussion included condemning Hamas terrorist attacks, ensuring unimpeded humanitarian access and support for the most vulnerable and needy, strengthening diplomatic contacts with Arab partners, preserving the possibility of creating a political horizon for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, and more. The EC informed ministers of the emergency actions taken and the additional funding of EUR 25 million, increasing the total EU humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza for 2023 four times to EUR 100 million.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba joined via videoconference and briefed the foreign ministers of the Member States of the EU on the latest developments in the Russian military aggression against Ukraine. In their discussion on the topic, the ministers reaffirmed the EU's strong support for Ukraine on all fronts, focusing on the country's European integration in the context of the Commission's recommendation for a decision to start EU membership negotiations at the end of 2023, the EU's contribution to Ukraine's long-term security commitments, continued support for President Zelensky's Peace Formula in the international arena, etc. Speaking on the subject, Deputy Minister Shekerletova welcomed the EC's recommendation to open membership negotiations with Ukraine, highlighting our country's consistent support for Ukraine's European integration on its own merits. She also highlighted the importance of establishing a Special Package for Ukraine within the European Peace Facility to ensure the predictability and sustainability of EU support to Ukraine in the security field. 

EU foreign ministers also discussed relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan against the backdrop of the latest escalation. High Representative Josep Borrell informed the Council of an upcoming joint visit of EU services and institutions to the region to identify specific needs, which will include representatives of the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The European Commission has decided to mobilise EUR 500 000 in humanitarian aid to support Armenia, having already provided EUR 12 million. General support was expressed for continued efforts to achieve lasting and sustainable peace in the South Caucasus region. The EU foreign ministers encouraged active diplomacy for the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the grounds of mutual respect and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the parties with a view to reaching a lasting peaceful solution to the conflict. General support was expressed for strengthening EU-Armenia ties on the grounds of the country's stated interest in expanding cooperation with the EU in a number of areas. 

In the course of the Council, an informal ministerial meeting was held with the President of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), Sultan Al Jaber, who outlined the vision of the COP28 hosts, the United Arab Emirates, for the expected outcomes of the Conference. The important contribution of the EU and the Member States of the EU to ensure the success of the Conference, which will take place in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December 2023, was underlined.          

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