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Summary: 8 September 2008, Avignon – The French Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, Bernard Kouchner, his counterparts from 25 Member States of the EU and the Secretary-General of the Danish foreign ministry representing the Danish foreign minister who was unable to attend, Javier Solana, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations, and Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the French Minister of State for European Affairs, met on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 September in Avignon for an informal meeting of the ministers for foreign affairs (Gymnich).
Ministers from candidate countries for accession to the European Union (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Turkey) and Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Enlargement, joined in part of the discussions on Saturday morning.
In their working session on Friday, the 27 debated the way in which the European Union wanted to strengthen political dialogue with the United States to give it more weight in resolving regional crises (notably in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran, the peace process in the Middle East) and to intensify transatlantic cooperation in response to major global challenges.
The 27 agreed to work together to develop a common document, on the basis of an initial text proposed by the Presidency, which presented a diagnosis, point of view and aims of the EU on each of these questions along with its proposals for a closer and more balanced partnership with the United States.
They also arranged to meet again in the coming weeks for another informal meeting, to finalise this document and send it to the US administration and the two candidates in the US presidential election.
In the course of this first working session, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy presented his initial proposals for updating the 'European Security Strategy', particularly for integrating energy security and the risks linked to climate change. The ministers worked with a view to adopting this update of the 'European Security Strategy' at the European Council in December.
The working session on Saturday 6 September was dedicated to the European Union's actions in resolving the conflict in Georgia and the outlook for the EU's relations with Russia.
The foreign affairs ministers committed themselves to maintaining European unity, deemed crucial, and to support the action to be taken by the President of the European Council and the Commission, following the European Council of 1 September, with regard to Russia on 8 September to achieve a full implementation of the commitments to withdraw Russian forces.
They emphasised that the European Union would continue to assume its responsibilities in resolving this crisis and reaffirmed their support, in line with the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 15 September, to deploying an autonomous monitoring mission under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) to complement the reinforcement of the OSCE mission to which the European countries were contributing in a coordinated manner; and, on the basis of the preliminary work carried out by the Commission and presented by Ms Ferrero-Waldner, evoked the modalities of efficient aid to reconstruction in Georgia.
The 27 also expressed their interest in the Turkish 'Stability and cooperation platform for the Caucasus' initiative presented to them by the Turkish minister for foreign affairs, Ali Babacan, who also took the opportunity to report on the historic visit of Turkish President, Abdüllah Gül, to Armenia on the evening of 6 September, at the invitation of his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sarkissian.
Lastly, they called for an international enquiry into the unfolding of the conflict in Georgia as soon as possible.
During lunch the ministers evoked the reinforcement of the European Union's committment to the peace process in the Middle East, particularly in the context of the meeting of the Quartet that would be held in parallel with the United Nations General Assembly. They agreed the necessity for the European Union to play an active role in the coming months to support the dynamic created by the Annapolis process.