Tuomioja hopes for in-depth discussion on Middle East at EU Gymnich meeting
01 Sep 2006, 13:17 en fr fi sv
The events of this summer in Lebanon have shown that the EU is able to act effectively, said the Foreign Minister of Finland, Erkki Tuomioja, at an advance press conference on 1 September in Lappeenranta, Finland, where EU Foreign Ministers convene for a two-day informal ("Gymnich") meeting. "Crises always open new opportunities", Tuomioja said, expressing the hope that the foreign ministers would be able to have in-depth discussions on foreign policy issues of importance to the EU.
Tuomioja said he was relatively satisfied with the way the EU dealt with the Lebanon crisis. "The EU acted in unison, its position was reflected in UN Security Council resolution 1701, and the Union has been implementing the resolution by contributing troops to UNIFIL in southern Lebanon", Tuomioja explained. Tuomioja sees a two-state solution as the only possible answer to the Middle East crisis. "We have to be ready to talk with all relevant parties, including Hamas and Syria", Tuomioja told. "We have to put pressure on Hamas to accept the demands of the international community. There will be no contacts with Hamas until the three conditions set by the Quartet, and fully supported by the EU, are met", Tuomioja specified.
Tomorrow the foreign ministers have Iran and EU-Russia relations on the agenda. "EU's High Representative Javier Solana will brief on the current situation in Iran, and we will cover all aspects in our discussion. However, this is not the time to take a new decision on Iran. For the EU, diplomacy remains the number one way forward", Tuomioja explained. According to Tuomioja, the Iran nuclear issue must be kept separate from the broader context of the Middle East peace process.
According to Tuomioja, the Gymnich meeting is being held in Lappeenranta due to its rich history and beautiful location. "The Fortress of Lappeenranta is a reminder of the fact that this has been a border city for centuries. This region is a positive example of mutually beneficial cross-border cooperation", Tuomioja pointed out.