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Source: European Union
6 May 2004


Brussels, 6 May 2004

9064/04 (Presse 137)
EU Council press release

EURO-MEDITERRANEAN MID-TERM MEETING

OF MINISTERS OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

(DUBLIN, 5-6 MAY 2004)

PRESIDENCY CONCLUSIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

1. The Dublin Mid-Term meeting of Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers took place as a reaffirmation of the Partners' continuing commitment to the Barcelona process. It confirmed the importance of partnership and co-ownership as essential elements of the process.

2. The meeting took place against the background of a number of initiatives concerning the countries of the Mediterranean region and beyond. The Union has proposed to include Mediterranean partners in the Neighbourhood policy. In addition, on the basis of mandates from the December 2003 European Council, an Interim Report on "An EU Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East" was welcomed by the European Council in March 2004. On the basis of this Interim Report, work is now in progress to develop for the European Council in June an agreed view on relations with the area which extends from Mauritania to Iran - the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

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8. Good progress has been made within the association process which lies at the core of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Association Agreements are now in force with Morocco, Tunisia, Israel and Jordan and on an interim basis with the Palestinian Authority. There are interim agreements in place with Egypt and Lebanon as well. The ratification of the agreement concluded with Egypt is now finalised and the first meeting of the EU-Egypt Association Council is scheduled for June 2004. The ratification processes of the agreements with Lebanon and Algeria are also well underway. All partners were again encouraged to expedite the ratification process of those Association Agreements not yet in force. The EU is also encouraged by the progress made towards concluding an Association Agreement with Syria, and is hopeful that the few outstanding points will be resolved soon, allowing Syria to join the group of Euro-Mediterranean countries which have signed Association or Interim Agreements with the Union, thus completing the network of Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements. These are important developments for the fulfilment of the objectives of the Barcelona Declaration and for the reinforcement of South-South cooperation.

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III. EU STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH THE MEDITERRANEAN AND THE MIDDLE EAST

11. The EU presented an overview of its internal discussions on its proposed Strategic Partnership for the Mediterranean and the Middle East and encouraged partners to make comments and suggestions on the Strategic Partnership and follow up actions relating to it. The EU stressed that the most recent European Council underlined, the importance of intensive consultation with the countries involved. Ministers welcomed the opportunity provided by the Dublin Mid-Term Ministerial meeting to discuss with Partners the proposed EU Strategic Partnership with regard to its Mediterranean dimension and also to underline its commitment to the Barcelona Process and its wish to develop this further including through the European Neighbourhood Policy.

12. In this respect the European Union and Mediterranean partners discussed issues relating to reform and democratisation in the region. Existing instruments such as the Association Agreements and the national action plans under the European Neighbourhood Policy should be fully used to support reforms and modernisation.

13. The EU indicated that it will continue to pursue its specific EU Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East, based on the existing frameworks and in particular the Barcelona Process as far as the Mediterranean is concerned, and aiming for the appropriate articulation between the different frameworks. The EU also stated its readiness to cooperate with other actors, with a view to achieving complementarity with other initiatives, notably with the US and in the framework of the G8 and NATO Summits in June. The EU expressed its willingness to cooperate closely with initiatives coming from the region, including taking account of the outcome of the Arab League Summit.

14. Ministers agreed that the clear commitment to pursuing the Middle East Peace Process through the implementation of the Road Map was central to the success of such a policy. Progress on the resolution of the Middle East conflict cannot be a pre-condition for confronting the urgent reform challenges facing the countries of the region, nor vice versa. But it is clear that it will not be possible to build a common zone of peace, prosperity and progress unless a just and lasting settlement of the conflict is in place.

IV. MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS

15. Ministers reviewed developments since their last meeting in Naples and view with great concern the situation in the Middle East. The Presidency informed partners about the meeting of the International Quartet in New York on 4 May. They noted with appreciation the statement issued by the Quartet after the meeting and welcomed the programme of action outlined therein. The Quartet should play an active role in pursuing the goal of a comprehensive regional peace and encourage the parties to move ahead vigorously on the basis of the principles outlined in their New York statement.

16. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to a negotiated two-State solution agreed between the parties which would result in a viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent Palestinian State existing side by side in peace with an Israel living within recognised and secure borders. They reaffirmed their belief that the Roadmap represent the only route to achieving such an outcome. They called on both sides to fulfil their obligations under the Roadmap. They stated that any change to the pre-1967 borders can only be arrived at by agreement between the parties. Ministers noted that the refugee question and the manner in which the right of return may be realised is also a Final Status issues and that the Roadmap states that a final and comprehensive, permanent status agreement that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must include an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to this question. Ministers emphasised the principle that Final Status issues are a matter for negotiation and agreement between the parties themselves and must not be prejudged. Issues such as borders and refugees must be mutually agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians based on Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1515, the terms of reference of the Madrid peace process, the principle of land for peace, previous agreements and the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the Beirut Arab League Summit; and be consistent with the Roadmap.

17. Ministers took note of the announced intention of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to withdraw from all Gaza settlements and parts of the West Bank. They agreed that such a withdrawal must bring about a full Israeli withdrawal and complete end of occupation in Gaza, and can be a step towards achieving the two-state vision; it could represent a significant step towards the implementation of the Roadmap provided that it is carried out in accordance with certain conditions, as set out in the conclusions of the March 2004 European Council. They consider that such a step should provide a rare moment of opportunity in the search for peace in the Middle East. Such an initiative should be properly orchestrated with the international community so as to ensure that an orderly situation in Gaza results which will permit the maintenance of security as well as rehabilitation and reconstruction. Ministers urged all parties to undertake urgently preparations towards this end. Ministers stressed the need to avoid a political vacuum, and the dangers which that would involve, in the interim period between now and the beginning of any withdrawal. They recalled that there are a number of measures which need to be adopted in the period immediately ahead in the political, security and humanitarian spheres in order to prevent further deterioration and to resume progress. Ministers urged an end to violence and terrorism as well as the resumption of a ceasefire embracing all parties and groups. They called on both sides to resume negotiations on the peace process without further delay.

18. Ministers stressed the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the Beirut Arab League Summit of 28 March 2002 to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East which must include Syria and Lebanon.

19. Ministers recalled that a just, lasting and comprehensive peace must meet the legitimate aspirations of both the Israeli and Palestinian people. Ministers called on all States in the region to exert every effort to promote peace. They also urged all states to act to combat terrorism.

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VI. POLITICAL AND SECURITY PARTNERSHIP

Political and security dialogue

27. Ministers expressed their determination to give greater substance to the political and security dialogue despite the obstacles posed notably by the absence of progress in the Middle East Peace Process. The noted the work programmes presented by the ad hoc working groups and looked forward to progress being made on the areas covered by the groups.

IX. CONCLUSION

74. The meeting took place at a crucial time in the EU's relations with the Mediterranean region and beyond. It reaffirmed a strong, political commitment to the Barcelona Process and all its activities Ministers also reaffirmed that the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership makes a distinct contribution to encouraging a process of poltitical and economic progress for the benefit of the peoples of the region. Ministers took clear decisions on outstanding matters, and agreed to speed up the process of implementation of the commitments undertaken in the Valencia Action Plan, and the conclusions of the Naples Foreign Ministers' meeting. Ministers approved the final decisions regarding the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue of Cultures. The meeting also provided an opportunity for an exchange of views between the EU and the partners on the European Neighbourhood Policy. Finally, Ministers availed themselves of the opportunity provided by the Dublin Ministerial meeting to pursue an intensive consultation on the principles, objectives and implementation measures of the proposed 'EU Strategic Partnership on the Mediterranean and the Middle East'. Ministers looked forward to considering these and other relevant issues at the next Euro-Mediterranean mid-term ministerial meeting which will take place during the Netherlands Presidency on 29/30 November 2004.


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