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It is a great pleasure and honour to be in Cairo today and to meet with the Secretary General of the League of Arab States Nabil Elaraby. The Secretary-General and myself have had a fruitful exchange on international challenges particularly those affecting this region. Building on the successful Ministerial meeting held between the European Union and the League of Arab States in Cairo last November, we have discussed how to deepen our dialogue and cooperation. We addressed, in particular, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Syrian crisis.
In Syria the massacre has to stop. According to the recent UN assessment, more than 60,000 people have already died. This is appalling and unacceptable. I reiterated the European Union’s position that President Assad should step aside as efforts are being made to facilitate an inclusive and democratic transition. The joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, has our full support in finding a political solution to the crisis.
The European Union has also welcomed the creation of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and accepts them as legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. It is important that they now engage with Joint Special Representative Brahimi and his team.
Secretary General Elaraby and I also discussed the need for concerted and coordinated actions by all key actors to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Now is the time to look forward and to take bold steps towards peace in Middle East. It is key to re-launch direct and substantial negotiations, without preconditions, among the parties in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The aim should be a lasting solution ending all claims.
As regards recent developments in Mali, I reiterated the EU's deep concern with the actions of terrorist and rebel groups in that country which pose a serious threat to its governability and are causing so much suffering among the population. It is indeed urgent to stop them, assist the Malian government regain full control over its territory and advance the reconciliation process.
Finally, we discussed how to further act on the priorities identified for cooperation between the European Union and the League of Arab States, in particular in the areas of training and exchanges of diplomats, sharing experience on election observation and crisis management, which will be key for addressing future challenges.
I thank Secretary General Elaraby for his hospitality and for sharing his views with me and I look forward for further enhanced cooperation at all levels between the European Union and the League of Arab States.