10 Jun 2011

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton: EU-Russia "absolutely agree" Syria should stop violence and move forward on reform

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton has given an interview to Interfax on the sidelines of the Russia-EU summit in Nizhny Novgorod in which she speaks about the resumption of talks on the Iranian nuclear program, a draft UN Security Council resolution on Syria and Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

Question: What are the prospects for resuming negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program? Does the EU share Russia‘s approach that the international community should develop step-by-step action plan for Tehran and move towards relieving the tensions or do you support tougher sanctions on Iran?

Answer: First of all its really nice to be here. It‘s the my first visit, and I had a wonderful experience of going on the river Volga last night on a boat. I‘d like to thank every one here for welcoming so nicely and how much we appreciate that.
Iran is a very important issue on which we work closely with Russia. And I want to pay tribute to the approach that Russia has taken in collaborating in what we call the E3+3. That is just the way of describing: France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and the U.S., six countries working together. We are taking a common approach in our negotiations which is to put forward proposals to Iran that would build confidence in what they say is the desire to have a civil nuclear program and would enable [] inspections to take place and enable us to move forward. And we are all united in that. And that approach is on the table. I hope that Iran will decide to come back to the table and pick up the different elements, the different parts of that or put their own on the table, so that we can go forward together. And indeed being here with Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Medvedev we‘ve talked about how important it is that we stand together on that.

Q.: Do you think the situation in Syria could follow the Libyan scenario. Do you support the idea that the UN Security Council should pass a tougher resolution in Syria, which Russia opposes?

A.: Well, what we‘re clear about is that the situation in Syria is very serious. A lot of people have been killed. It‘s important when we are in a position that innocent are dying that the UN Security Council looks at this very seriously. There is a resolution put forward by EU members, I support them doing that. That‘s a very different resolution to the resolution non Libya, and I do hope that Russia would approach it in that spirit. I have no doubt of the commitment from President Medvedev and from Foreign Minister Lavrov from today to try and engage with Syria to stop violence and move forward on reform. On that we absolutely agreed.

Q.: Will the EU support the proclamation of Palestine‘s independence at the UN General Assembly session in September? Are you aware when the next ministerial meeting of the Quartet on the Middle East settlement could take place?

A.: I‘ve just written to ask that we have a Quartet meeting. You are completely right to raise the Quartet as very important, and potentially offering the way forward to get talks moving, because in the end it‘s the negotiated settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis is going to lead to lasting peace that we all want to see. It will be for members of the UN, individual countries to make their decisions in September. But what I‘m engaged in is trying to find the way that we get the talks moving, because that‘s actually going to be the solution in the end.