European Union foreign ministers met Monday to review key global flashpoints including developments in the Middle East, Serbia and Kosovo.
Ministers from the 27-nation bloc will also seek to hammer out a joint stance ahead of an upcoming summit with Russia and hold trade and aid talks with South Africa and other African nations.
In separate discussions, EU defence ministers will agree a new strategy to build a European defence industrial base to encourage military cooperation among governments in the bloc.
They are also expected to finalize plans for EU police operations in Afghanistan and post-settlement Kosovo.
Foreign ministers are set to meet an Arab League delegation, including the organization’s head Amr Moussa, as well as foreign ministers from the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Egypt and Qatar, to discuss the latest Middle East developments.
Diplomats said the focus would be on a resurrected Arab initiative designed to end conflict in the region.
The peace proposal, initially launched at an Arab League summit in 2002, includes a land-for-peace offer to Israel and has been warmly welcomed by the EU as a way of breaking the current deadlock between Israelis and Palestinians.
The meeting also marks the first visit to Brussels by Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr, a member of the newly formed Hamas- Fatah coalition government.
EU governments have agreed to hold ‘selective’ discussions with non-Hamas members of the Palestinian Authority but have so farfused to resume direct aid to the government.
An EU diplomat described Abu Amr as an ‘independent and widely respected’ man who was welcome in Europe.
Speaking ahead of the meeting with the EU, Abu Amr said he planned to urge Europeans to resume economic aid to the Palestinian Authority and pressure Israel to release funds and take ‘confidence-building’ steps.
EU ministers will seek to hammer out a joint stance ahead of a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Samara from May 17 to 18.
EU diplomats say they are still hoping to hold a ‘successful’ summit with Russia but admit that a spate of disputes between the two sides has cast a shadow over the meeting.
Significantly, EU hopes of the summit would launch negotiations on a new EU-Russia treaty are now effectively on ice following a continuing trade spat between Moscow and Poland.
Warsaw has said it will not approve the accord unless Moscow lifts its long-standing ban on Polish meat exports.
The planned EU-Russia partnership agreement includes EU demands for better and secure access to Russia’s vast oil and gas resources, a priority for the energy-hungry 27-member bloc.
Also casting a pall over the summit is a dispute between Estonia and Russia over the removal of a memorial in Tallinn erected during Soviet times for Red Army soldiers who died in World War II.
Ministers will hail the formation of a pro-European government in Serbia as a sign this may help push forward a final settlement for Kosovo.
Russia on Saturday, however, dismissed as ‘unacceptable’ a draft UN Security Council resolution, introduced by Western powers, endorsing a supervised independence plan for Kosovo.
Separately, EU ministers will review sanctions imposed on Uzbekistan two years ago in the wake of a fierce government crackdown on protestors.
Diplomats said the bloc was likely to take some names off the list of key government officials from Uzbekistan denied entry into the EU.
Discussions are planned on Monday and Tuesday with South African and other African ministers.
Last Mod: 14 Mayıs 2007, 18:28