At the League of Arab States-European Union Summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance of multilateral cooperation between the two regions – even if opinions diverge significantly on some points. The EU, she said, has an interest in the region doing well economically. But this is only possible with a strong civil society, and if human rights are respected.
New era of cooperation and coordination
It was the first time that the heads of state and government of the EU states and the member states of the League of Arab States had met. At the European Council meeting last October the EU leaders agreed to hold the summit. As our direct neighbours, developments in the Middle East are highly significant for the European Union. The Chancellor stressed that the summit “addressed very many issues, and although there are large differences of opinion, there is also a common will to resolve problems”.
At the two-day meeting, the EU and the Arab League agreed to step up cooperation. The summit declaration expresses participants’ determination to move forward with deepening the existing strategic partnership, and to embark on a new era of cooperation and coordination.
According to Angela Merkel, the two regions (the EU and the Arab states) face a common challenge: the fight against Islamist terrorism. Alongside military options, political ways forward must be identified in order to resolve the numerous conflicts in the region served by the League of Arab States. Europe must be ready to do its bit.
With a view to the Middle East conflict, Angela Merkel stressed that Israel’s right to exist is non-negotiable for the German government. Germany advocates a two-state solution, with a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state. “More work is still needed on this solution,” she urged.
The Chancellor also pointed to the conflict and the humanitarian disaster in Yemen. The Stockholm process is showing the first signs of hope. The EU must also support the work of the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, in order to achieve a political solution.
For Syria, Angela Merkel called for a process of political change. “I have asked the member states of the Arab League to work with us to achieve this political change process,” she said. In concrete terms this means moving forward with effort to form a constitutional committee and then beginning “inclusive consultations” as to what form Syria’s future political order can take. That is important to ensure that all Syrians can identify with Syria,“ said Angela Merkel.
The Chancellor also addressed the fragile situation in Libya. The government of national accord is still a long way from taking control of the entire country. In view of the flows of refugees heading to Italy, it is very much in Europe’s own interests to regulate the situation, she declared. ”We have made progress here. But it is primarily also about ensuring that both the refugees and the people in Libya have a reasonable and acceptable life,“ stated the Chancellor.