General Affairs and External Relations Council

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written statement – made on 8th February 2007.

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Minister of State (Europe), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 12 February in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will represent the UK.

The agenda items are as follows:

General Affairs

Preparation of the European Council on 8/9 March

The Council is expected to approve the draft annotated agenda for the spring European Council including the Lisbon economic reform process, Better regulation and climate/energy. External issues will be covered as appropriate.

External Relations

World Trade Organisation

The Commission is expected to update the Council, following the Davos World Economic Forum and the restarting of formal Doha Development Agenda negotiations at the end of January.

Western Balkans

Discussion is likely to focus on Kosovo. We hope that the Council will give its full support to UN Status Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his draft proposals and urges engagement by the parties. The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on Serbia and Kosovo.

Sudan

The Council is likely to adopt conclusions on Sudan keeping up the pressure on the parties to commit to a political process and to co-operate with the UN and African Union in enhancing the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and deploying a hybrid AU-UN force. The Council is likely to condemn the continued violence on the ground, particularly attacks on AMIS and humanitarian personnel and the Government of Sudan airforce bombing in North Darfur and reiterate its readiness to consider further measures.

Somalia

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions welcoming the Transitional Federal Government's commitment to launch an inter-Somali dialogue and reaffirming illingness to assist the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and reconstruction efforts in Somalia.

Afghanistan

High Representative for Common and Foreign Security Policy Javier Solana is expected to outline plans for a civilian policing mission under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The presidency will brief the Council on the Foreign Ministerial Troika with Afghan Foreign Minister Spanta on 29 January. The Council is also expected to adopt conclusions approving a concept for a possible ESDP mission to Afghanistan in the field of policing with links to the wider rule of law. Ministers will also welcome the renewed international expressions of support for the Afghan Government's reconstruction work which emerged from a series of meetings in Berlin on 30 and 31 January 2006.

Iran

The presidency is planning a discussion of EU policy on Iran, covering the nuclear issue, efforts to support reform and Iran's role in the region. Ministers will also be updated on progress with work to implement the sanctions in UN Security Council Resolution 1737.

Middle East Peace Process

The Council is expected to welcome the 2 February Quartet statement. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs may also brief partners on her recent visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (5-7 February).

On Lebanon, the Council is expected to adopt Conclusions, welcoming the success of the Paris III conference, including the EU's contribution to it, and supporting mediation efforts to resolve the political crisis in Lebanon.