The Turkish operation in Syria and the continued illegal drilling in the EEZ of Cyprus will be the two main issues of discussion at the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini in Luxembourg that started on Monday.

EU foreign ministers will start with a discussion on current affairs, allowing ministers to review the most pressing issues on the international agenda, including a follow-up to discussions during the 74th United Nations General Assembly. They are expected to touch upon Iran, the situation in Libya and in Iraq. The High Representative and foreign ministers will also refer to Venezuela.

The Council will discuss Syria following the latest developments, in particular the Turkish military operation in north-east Syria. The UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen will participate in the discussion and will brief the Council on the recent formation of a constitutional committee in the framework of the UN Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), and on preparations for its first meeting.

The discussion is expected to focus on the situation on the ground, in particular in north-east Syria. In its declaration of October 9, the EU called upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action, underlying that renewed armed hostilities in the north-east will further undermine the stability of the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements and that prospects for the UN-led political process to achieve peace in Syria will be more difficult.

The EU also stated that unilateral action on Turkey’s part threatens the progress achieved by the Global Coalition to defeat of Da’esh, of which Turkey is a member. Furthermore, the conflict in Idlib persists, as do hostilities in other parts of Syria.

In this context, foreign ministers are expected to underline the urgent need for positive developments on the grounds, in particular the unhindered humanitarian access and full respect for international humanitarian law as well as a full and lasting ceasefire across the whole of Syria.

Ministers are expected to discuss ways to support the UN Special Envoy for Syria in his efforts to find a permanent, sustainable, negotiated solution.

The Council will also discuss Turkey’s continued drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, as Turkey is currently conducting drilling activities 45 nautical miles off the southern coast of Cyprus.

On October 4, Mogherini held a phone conversation with Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides during which they deplored Turkey’s further drilling activities.

The Council adopted conclusions on Turkish drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean on July 15, 2019. In light of Turkey’s continued and new illegal drilling activities, the Council decided to suspend negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and not to hold the Association Council and further meetings of the EU-Turkey high-level dialogues for the time being. The Council endorsed the Commission’s proposal to reduce the pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020 and invited the European Investment Bank to review its lending activities in Turkey, notably with regard to sovereign-backed lending.

In accordance with the European Council conclusions of 20 June, the Council invited the High Representative and the Commission to continue work on options for targeted measures in light of Turkey’s continued drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Council undertook to closely monitor developments and to revert to this issue as appropriate.

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