PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE MINISTRY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Mediterranean region to take centre stage during Maltese Presidency of Council of EU – Minister George W. Vella

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, George W. Vella, has told his EU counterparts that the Southern Neighbourhood merits the Union’s “full attention and commitment due to the numerous conflicts, instability and socio-economic challenges impinging on our partners and neighbours to the South.”

Speaking at a Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, which brings together the foreign ministers of all EU Member States, Minister Vella stressed that the Mediterranean will be high on the agenda of the upcoming Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU. This will be the case within all relevant policy-areas, including the political and security engagement of the EU. In fact, the Mediterranean is one of six overall priorities for the Maltese Presidency.

Minister Vella expressed Malta’s regret at the collapse of the cessation of hostilities in Syria. He joined colleagues in calling for a return to political dialogue under the auspices of the UN, stating that there will not be any military solution to the conflict and that only well-intentioned talks can end the suffering and destruction. Minister Vella also highlighted the desperate need to immediately resume humanitarian aid in various parts of the country.

Minister Vella also debriefed other Ministers on the Libyan Political Dialogue which took place in Malta on 10-11 November. This was the first time, following the signing of the Schirat Agreement last year that the format met in a location other than Tunis, with about 30 members participating. Minister Vella stressed that a viable solution to the instability in the country must be determined by Libyans themselves, and that Malta’s emphasis is simply to facilitate discussions to this end.

The latest developments in Turkey were also discussed by EU foreign ministers. Minister Vella expressed Malta’s concern and reiterated his support for EU and international calls for Turkey to fully respect democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the media and due judicial process. He also expressed Malta’s solidarity with Turkey and its people in light of recent terror attacks, stating that the EU must continue to support the country in facing this threat. He added, however, that the response must be proportional and encouraged action that mended differences rather than deepening them and leading to an ever-worsening spiral of violence.

On the side-lines of the meeting, Minister Vella met with the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Witold Waszczykowski, in order to discuss preparations for the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Source: Government of Malta.