Friday

22nd Feb 2019

Middle East to dominate ministers meeting

EU foreign ministers will meet tomorrow (Friday 5 September) on the shores of Lake Garda, in Italy, for an informal ministerial meeting to discuss the situation in Iraq, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Iran's nuclear capabilities.

Returning from a trip to the Middle East the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana will brief his colleagues from the member states and the 10 accession countries on his trip.

Iran

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During the Iran leg of his visit, Mr Solana warned the Iranian government that Tehran's continued reluctance to accept on-the-spot weapons inspections on their nuclear facilities would be bad news for Iran and bad news for the EU.

The Union has placed its credibility - in the foreign policy sphere - on its policy of constructive engagement with Iran, and other countries, in the face of pressure from the US.

Washington has consistently pressured Brussels to back its policy of isolation of Iran.

The EU is currently locked in a round of trade negotiations with Iran which are contingent on the advancement of political dialogue on the funding of terrorist organisations.

Iran with its massive young population is keen to gain an accord, which would boost its trade profile.

In a thinly disguised threat, EU ministers have said they will assess the state of negotiations this month. However, a decision in the coming days is unlikely as a fresh report form International weapons inspectors on the ground is expected later this month.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Again under pressure from the US and Israel, EU member states will also discuss placing the political wing of the Palestinian group Hamas on the EU's list of terrorist organisations which would make them liable for sanctions.

The UK, Netherlands and Italy are all in favour of blacklisting the group but will face tough opposition from France and Germany who are keen to stress the importance of the political wing's humanitarian projects to people on the ground.

The health of the EU co-sponsored 'Road Map to peace in the Middle East' will also be discussed after the head of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, earlier this week pronounced the document as dead.

Ministers will no doubt be watching events in the territories as Mr Arafat and his Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas struggle for political control of the Authority.

Other Items

Other items on the agenda include a discussion on the EU's Constitution and how ministers will work on the text.

The Italian government is expected to present its proposal to start the Intergovernmental Conference - the forum for Heads of State and Government to approve the new treaty text - to start on 4 October.

Aside from the ministers and trailing media, 20,000 demonstrators are also expected to be present: "The development model for the EU promotes unemployment and social injustice instead of universal rights, and constant wars instead of peace," Mario Bersani a member of the anti-globalisation group Attac told Der Standard.

Rights watchdog warns MEPs on Morocco trade deal

MEPs are set to rubber-stamp a trade deal with Morocco to fish off the disputed coastline of the Western Sahara. Human Rights Watch have stepped in to point out the deal could be in breach of international law.

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