Press Releases Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival

Good morning,

Today, we are going to have a meeting concentrated on three issues: the situation in Gaza, Ukraine and Armenia/Azerbaijan.

But after, we will have a specific meeting together with the Western Balkans [Foreign Affairs] Ministers. And, at the end of the [Foreign Affairs] Council, we will have a short meeting with Sultan [Ahmed] Al-Jaber, the President [designate] of COP28, in order to follow up [on] how the work for this climate issue is going.

So, Gaza, Ukraine, Armenia/Azerbaijan, COP28, and Western Balkans.

Yesterday, we worked the whole day in order to be able to issue a statement at 27 [EU Member States]. I am happy to say that we managed to put together the 27 Member States in a joint statement.

You know how difficult it has been the last times, after the vote at the United Nations where [our] countries were voting in different ways, to present a completely united approach. That is what I have been working on during the whole weekend in order to get a [EU] 27 Statement.

In this [EU] 27 Statement, we ask for immediate pauses. I am saying that in plural. Not a single one but several ones, pauses. But it is an adjective, it is “immediate” pauses and humanitarian corridors to be established in order to face the dire situation of the people in Gaza.

We asked Israel to show maximum restraint in order to save civilian lives.

We condemn the use by Hamas of people and hospitals as [human] shields. But also, we expressed our concern for the dire situation of the hospitals that are being heavily affected by the bombing.

I think this is the summary of an important common statement – I repeat once again – by the 27 [Member States] and asking for immediate humanitarian pauses in order to facilitate that aid could come into Gaza. Because Gaza needs more aid from any point of view – water, fuel, food. This aid is available, it is at the border, waiting to come in. This is about Gaza.

Then, about Ukraine. Do not forget about Ukraine, the fight continues. Kyiv has already been bombed [again]. Russia attacked a civilian ship in the Black Sea corridor that was transporting grain.

Our support is increasing. I can tell you that it has reached the level of €27 billion of military support. It is the highest figure ever reached. We continue training Ukrainian soldiers. We continue being behind Ukraine.

Then, we will talk with Sultan Al-Jaber about climate. We will have a separate meeting with the Western Balkans [Foreign Affairs] Ministers in order to show how important is this region, to discuss about the recent proposals of the [European] Commission for enlargement, to insist on the need of following closer our foreign policy. Some countries have not a bright record on alignment with our foreign policy and sanctions.

This will be the whole programme for today.


Q. Are you afraid that the Middle East conflict is going to ‘erase’ the Ukraine conflict for Europe?

Both conflicts are completely different in their nature. In any case, can you compare what is happening in Ukraine and what is happening in Gaza? But it is clear that the perception of the world has to be taken very much into consideration to avoid the accusation of double standards.

Q. Everyone says that Israel has the right to defend itself in line with humanitarian law. What do you make of Hamas using hospitals as their shield, as their commando centres?

That is what we said in our statement. Our statement touches all these issues. We condemned the use of Hamas hospitals and people as human shields. On the other hand, we ask Israel for maximum restraint and targeting in order to avoid human casualties.

Q. Mr High Representative, the European Commission recommended the European Council candidate status for Georgia and opening negotiations for Moldova and Ukraine. How would you comment on this important step for our countries?

It speaks for itself. It speaks for itself – how important it is that the European Commission has proposed to open negotiations with Ukraine [and Moldova]. This will create movement and will push the whole queue of countries queuing on becoming members [of the European Union]. There is the obstacle of the Serbia/Kosovo negotiations, but the dynamics created by Ukraine’s path to membership will affect the whole process of the whole candidates [that] were in a kind of stalemate.

Let me tell you that, today, in the meeting, we are not only going to talk only about the dire situation in Gaza. We should start thinking about the solution for the post-war. This is something the Ministers should, from my understanding, concentrate on [in] the discussion: what is going to happen after, what and how we can deal with Gaza, not only to reconstruct but to offer an integrated solution to the Palestinian issue. This is the real political problem that we have to face, which is the definitive solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine that has reached this high level of horror. We have to look for peace among them. The solution for Gaza cannot be an isolated solution. I will explain to the ministers what I think about it, what I think could happen, what we should support and what we should reject. I am going to present several “yes’s” and several “no’s”. I will tell you after the meeting.

Q. About Georgia.

I think I told you everything I should talk [about now].

Q. Will you call for a cease-fire?

Yesterday, the Ministers asked for immediate pauses in a joint communication which explains the common position of the 27 [Member Sates]. This is the common position of the 27.


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