site.btaForeign Affairs Council Holds Regular Meeting in Brussels
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Elena Shekerletova represented Bulgaria at the regular November meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, the Foreign Ministry's press office said on Tuesday. The discussion focused on developments in Israel and the region, the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, and other topical issues on the foreign policy agenda.
The first topic of the meeting was the current situation in Israel and the Middle East region in the wake of the 7 October 2023 Hamas terrorist attacks that killed over 1,200 Israeli and foreign citizens. Deputy Minister Shekerletova briefed her colleagues on the visit to Israel on November 6 by Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mariya Gabriel. "Bulgaria stands in solidarity with the Israeli people at this difficult time, we respect Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism, and we call for the release of all hostages taken by Hamas," Deputy Minister Shekerletova said, adding that it is also important to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in Gaza, including the establishment of humanitarian corridors and pauses.
Highlights of the discussion included condemning Hamas terrorist attacks, ensuring unimpeded humanitarian access and support for the most vulnerable and needy, strengthening diplomatic contacts with Arab partners, preserving the possibility of creating a political horizon for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, among others. The EC informed ministers of the emergency actions taken and the additional funding of EUR 25 million, bringing the total EU humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza for 2023 to EUR 100 million.
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, joined by videoconference and familiarised the foreign ministers of the EU member states with the latest developments in the Russian military aggression against Ukraine. In their discussion on the subject, the ministers reaffirmed the EU's strong support for Ukraine on all fronts, focusing on Ukraine’s European integration in the context of the European Commission's recommendation to decide to start EU membership negotiations at the end of 2023. Speaking on the subject, Deputy Minister Shekerletova welcomed the EC's recommendation to start membership negotiations with Ukraine, highlighting Bulgaria's consistent support for Ukraine's European integration on its own merits. She also highlighted the importance of establishing a special package for Ukraine under the European Peace Facility to ensure the predictability and sustainability of the EU's security support to Ukraine.
The EU foreign ministers also discussed relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan against the backdrop of the latest escalation. High Representative Josep Borrell informed the Council of an upcoming joint visit of EU services and institutions to the region to identify specific needs, which will include representatives of the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The EU foreign ministers encouraged active diplomacy to normalise relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the basis of mutual respect and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the parties as a path to reaching a lasting peaceful solution to the conflict. General support was expressed for strengthening EU-Armenia ties on the basis of the country's stated interest in expanding cooperation with the EU in a number of areas.
The Council also held an informal ministerial meeting with the President-Designate of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), Sultan Al Jaber, who outlined the vision of the COP28 hosts, the United Arab Emirates, for the expected outcomes of the Conference. The delegates also highlighted the important contribution of the EU and its member states in ensuring the success of the Conference, which will take place in Dubai from November 30 to December 12.