Press Releases Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell after the meeting

Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell after the meeting

Well, [on Ukraine], this was a “Jumbo” format – Foreign and Defence Ministers together.

We usually do not have this kind of meetings, but the fact that the Ministers met in this format underlines the urgency of speeding up our military support to Ukraine.

First, we listened to the [Foreign] Minister [Dmytro] Kuleba and Defence Minister [Rustem] Umerov, who explained to us the difficult situation on the ground. The figures are really appalling. The way Russia is attacking Ukraine: with missiles, drones and guided bombs.

Just on guided bombs, Ukrainians have reported 7,000 in four months [if this year], which is about 60 guided bombs a day. And there is the constant shelling in the east [of Ukraine]. It is part of Putin’s strategy. On the other hand, it is clear that Ukraine lacks weapons for self-defense and to reject the Russian aggression.

The impact on the electricity system of Ukraine is very high. I cannot give you a precise figure because it is very appalling, but the Ukrainian electricity [system] is paying the highest price. It is one of the most important targets of the Russian attack. You know why: because electricity is needed for everything and for everybody.

Well, there is a clear sense of urgency for the European Union and all Ukraine’s allies to act.

The most important way of acting is providing air defence batteries and ammunition for these batteries, interceptors. Batteries without interceptors, launchers without interceptors are not useful, interceptors without launchers neither. The important thing is to supply interceptors and more support, in order to protect the most important Ukrainian cities.

At the same time, we do not have to forget the lack of ammunition for conventional fights with 155 [millimeters] calibers. Many countries have been joining the Czech initiative in order to look for ammunitions – everywhere in the world. The first delivery will come [at the] end of May/first of June. And also, others have shown their readiness to participate in the German initiative to concentrate, coordinate and push for the [reinforcement of] anti-aerial capacities.

This has to be coordinated, but the two targets, the two purposes, the two objectives – more air defence systems, and more ammunitions of caliber 155 [millimeters] – remain the most important targets for us.

I am glad that some Member States indicated their will to make concrete contributions in terms of air defence, systems of interceptors, or to support an enlarged existing initiative, as the Czech one on ammunitions and the German one on the air defence.

On the situation in Gaza – sorry, before going to Gaza, it is important to notice that we have reached a political agreement in order to enlarge and expand the existing drones [sanctions] regime to cover missiles and their potential transfer to Russia. The existing drones’ regime to impose sanctions to Iran in order to cover missiles and their potentials – for the time being, it has not happened – but their potential transfer to Russia.

This includes the same system that we did for Russia. It includes missiles production. Secondly, it expands the geographical area of this framework to cover drones and missiles deliveries, not only to Russia, but to the whole region of the Middle East and the Red Sea. And thirdly, to expand the list of prohibited drone components.

Now, I go back to Gaza, where the situation [is dire]. There is no progress on the release of hostages, there is no prospect for a ceasefire, and there is no real easing of the humanitarian catastrophe.

So, the three things that we need – release of hostages, ceasefire, [and easing of the] humanitarian catastrophe – [I am] sorry to say, there is no progress in any of them – no significant progress.

Nothing on the release of hostages. No prospect for a ceasefire. And very little [progress on humanitarian aid] – the Commissioner in charge of humanitarian assistance [Janez Lenarčič] provided us with some examples of how the humanitarian support is being obstructed. We call for unhindered access, and it is clear that it is being hindered, he provided us with concrete examples. So, there is no easing of the humanitarian support, so the humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinian people continues.

I want to insist that there is not going to be lasting stability in the region, as long as, the war in Gaza continues.

Ministers agreed to invite, once again, Israeli Foreign Minister [Israel] Katz, and the new Palestinian Prime Minister [Mohammad] Mustafa to the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council.

On UNRWA, we were waiting for the report by the Independent Review Group led by Catherine Colonna. We are waiting for it. It is supposed to be delivered today. They issued it today, we are going to study it, but most donors have resumed funding of UNRWA. Most donors have already started funding UNRWA, and it is good that it is like this because the agency is facing a severe funding shortage, which may lead to the suspension of operations.

Let’s hope that the study of the Catherine Colonna’s Review Group will allow everybody, and in particular, the funding coming from the European Commission, to go back to UNRWA.

Then, we studied the situation in Sudan. The first anniversary of the outbreak of the war between the actors of the military coup in Sudan. On that occasion, we co-chaired last week with France and Germany the very successful International Humanitarian Conference [for Sudan and its neighbours], in Paris.

We listened to the United Nations [Secretary’s’ General Personal] Envoy [for Sudan, Ramtane] Lamamra, former Foreign Minister of Algeria, and we discussed how to step up coordination with the United Nations.

We want to contribute to a sustainable ceasefire; we want to support regional and international mediation efforts and we want to emphasise the importance of cooperation and coordination among various mediation initiatives.

Then, we discussed about the situation in Georgia. Foreign Ministers expressed their concerns for the “Law on transparency of foreign influence” in Georgia. This law is being presented to the Parliament. There was a commitment by the Georgian government to withdraw this law – this project of law – and not to present it again [to the Parliament]. This has not been fulfilled. Commissioner [Olivér] Várhelyi and myself, we issued a statement last week, stressing that this law is incompatible with the European Union’s values. I repeat: it is incompatible with the European Union’s values. The [European] Commission will have to present an oral report on this development, but we are very much concerned about the fact that this law has been presented again to the Parliament.

And now, we are going to have a High-Level Forum on Regional Security and Cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council. I will be chairing it shortly together with the Prime Minister of Qatar [Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani].

I want to thank him, and all Ministers from the Gulf counties for coming here, to Luxembourg, to hold this meeting. This High-Level Forum on Regional Security and Cooperation in the region gathers together the Gulf countries, and the European Union Ministers. It is an important milestone in our strategic partnership with the Gulf countries. It is the first-ever informal meeting in this setup.

We want to reinforce the dialogue and cooperation on security between the European Union, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and our respective Member States.

I do not have to tell you about the security implications of the latest developments and the tense situation around Gaza. [We want] to see how concretely we can work collectively to calm down the situation and to prevent further escalations.

I also hope, to hear from partners their perspective on all the shared security concerns, security threats and challenges, and in particular their ideas about how to reinforce security in the Gulf region and beyond.

You know that everybody is very much concerned about the situation in Gaza, the Red Sea, Iran. It is one of the hottest spots for security around the world, and it is very good that we could have this meeting with our friends from the Gulf Cooperation Council and the EU Member States.


Q. High Representative, for those of us who are covering these meetings, this is now the third meeting in a few days where we hear how urgent the delivery of weapons, especially air-defence systems, to Ukraine is. The European Council, the G7, NATO Defence Ministerial by VTC and today, the “Jumbo” meeting. It is also the second time that we hear “Pledges have been made”, or as you say, “Member States have indicated their will to contribute”. But whenever we ask individual Ministers, no one would tell us concretely what their country commits to. Can you explain to us why that is?

You are right. This is the third or the fourth time that we discuss about the situation and the need for Ukraine to increase their aerial capacity. It was discussed at NATO, and I can say exactly the same things that the Secretary General of NATO [Jens Stoltenberg] said after the meeting. That there is a common and clear understanding of the need to provide Ukraine with more aerial capacities. Aerial capacities are composed of different types of arms. As I said, there are launchers, and there are interceptors, there are radars, F-16s which are coming. There are long range, medium range and short range. There are at least 20 different types of anti-aerial capacities and we have been reviewing all of them: who has been doing what and what else can be done. Each Member States, some of them [Member States] took concrete proposals in the framework of the German alliance. Others went directly to the other issue, which is also important, which is the Czech initiative on ammunition. Others had to go back to their capitals to take final decisions. I think now it [has] matured. Everything has been said, and a lot of things have to be done.

Q. My question is more or less the same. Now, after this meeting, what do you think about the possibility to fulfil the request of President [of Ukraine, Volodymyr] Zelenskyy who asked [for] seven Patriots, or maybe in some way you transform this request but in general, you can fulfil this general request?

I am sorry but I do not have Patriots in Brussels. The Patriots are in the capitals, and it is up to them to take the decisions. I want to insist that a launcher without an interceptor is useless, and certainly, interceptors without launchers are also useless. So, we need both things: we need new launchers and a continued flow of interceptors in order to be used by the launchers. Member States came back to the capitals with a clear understanding of the request, of the needs, and I am sure they will take decisions about it.

Q. Ma question concerne le Liban. On a vu durant le Sommet de la semaine passée, on a parlé beaucoup du Liban, on a parlé aussi d’un soutien à l’armée libanaise. Après ça, il y a eu une visite du Premier ministre libanais à Paris, une rencontre avec M. [Emmanuel] Macron [Président de la République française] et un retour du Premier ministre à Beyrouth. On a entendu des échos que les nouvelles propositions de Paris n’ont pas été entendues au Liban. La position du Hezbollah est toujours la même : pas de cessez-le-feu au Liban avant un cessez-le-feu à Gaza. Ma question : En quoi ça concerne aujourd’hui la position européenne pour soutenir l’armée libanaise, et dans quel but ? Et qu’elle est l’alternative s’il n’y a pas de cessez-le-feu au Liban avant le cessez-le-feu à Gaza ?

To tell the truth, we have not discussed in concrete terms the situation in Lebanon, but in the whole region. We focused our attention on the answer to Iran’s attack on Israel, the sanctions’ regime, the situation in Gaza, the need to improve humanitarian assistance to the population, stability of the whole region. But I cannot answer your question because we have not been discussing deeply the situation in Lebanon.

Q. High Representative, just to go back to Ukraine, maybe to try again just to get an answer to the question of “why is it taking so long”. What do the Member States, what do the capitals tell you when you impress this sense of urgency upon them? Why is it so difficult for them to provide these Patriots, as the Germans have done? Since this first plea was made by the Ukrainians, one European Union country has come forward – Germany – with one Patriot battery. So, why no more?

You understand very well what is the role of the High Representative. It is not in my hands to take these decisions. What I am trying to do – what I am doing – is to put the question very high in the understanding of my colleagues, on the Ministers of the EU Member States. That is why we called both Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers: to take into consideration both, and simultaneously, the political dimension together with the defence capacities of the Member States. Because Foreign Affairs Ministers are not in charge of the armies and the armies have to take decisions on a general political framework. That is why both of them were here. Well, in some cases, it was only one, but the idea that it is a decision that affects the military capacity and the geopolitical environment in which foreign policy is being done. At the end, the army and the defence capacities are part of our foreign policy.

Foreign and security and defence [policy] – I do not want to lose any opportunity to repeat it – is a competence of the Member States. It is not me, it is not the Commission, who have the capacity to decide what kind of military support the Member States want – or can – offer to Ukraine, depending on their own capacities and needs. But, today, I think that everything has been said, and everybody understood, and everybody is in a position to take decisions. But you know, I cannot take decisions instead of them. I think the meeting was useful because everybody was looking at the others: “What are you doing? What can we do? Which is the level of ammunitions that has to be provided?” Everybody has to take into consideration their own capacities and needs, and the need to support Ukraine.

The work will continue, and the capitals will take the decision which they are entitled to take. I cannot take decisions instead of my colleagues. I just do what I can do – I would not say pressure because I do not pressure my colleagues – to try to explain and make everybody understand, and to be aware, and to feel not only concerned but ready to act.

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