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ForMin Aurescu, Austrian, Lithuanian counterparts on South Caucasus tour to strengthen EU's regional geopolitical profile

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Bogdan Aurescu

Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu will be touring the South Caucasus region over June 24 - 26 accompanied by his Austrian and Lithuanian counterparts Alexander Schallenberg and Gabrielius Landsbergis, on a mandate entrusted by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell; the purpose of this regional tour is to strengthen the EU's geopolitical profile in its neighborhood and increase the EU's involvement and role in resolving protracted conflicts in the region, the Foreign Ministry said in a release.

The three foreign ministers will set off from Bucharest on a plane provided by the Romanian side; the tour includes visits to the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia and Georgia. Also accompanying the delegation will be the European Union's Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, Toivo Klaar, as well as other diplomats from the European External Action Service.

The three ministers have a substantive agenda of meetings in Baku, Yerevan and Tbilisi, which also includes top-level receptions (President, Prime Minister) and extensive consultations with counterparts from the three visited states.

"The purpose of the visit is to strengthen the EU's geopolitical profile in its neighborhood, increase the EU's involvement and role in the settlement of protracted conflicts in the region, as well as streamline and increase the cohesion of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and to ensure greater, direct engagement of the member states and European institutions, including through joint action. The three ministers will show that the EU aims to promote a comprehensive and lasting solution to protracted conflicts, including by supporting the stabilization of the on-site situation, post-conflict reconstruction and implementing confidence-building measures," the release said.

The approach of the three top diplomats will thus contribute to strengthening a positive EU agenda in the region and to expressing clear support by the EU and the member states, for its stability and security.

"Thus, the three European Foreign Ministers will send a strong signal regarding the EU's openness and interest in supporting extensive cooperation among South Caucasus countries, including through opportunities within the Eastern Partnership. In fact, encouraging enhanced cooperation among the states in the region on the issue of protracted conflicts was one of the proposals put forward by the Romanian Foreign Minister at the Gymnich meeting in Lisbon this May. Also, the tour is aimed at preparing the Eastern Partnership Summit in December," the release states.

The Foreign Ministry points out that this tour is of great interest to Romania, for which the South Caucasus is an area of priority geopolitical interest and the resolution of protracted conflicts in the Black Sea region is a strategic objective.

The tour is a first concrete result of the proposals advanced by Minister Bogdan Aurescu at the May 27 informal meeting of the Foreign Ministers (Gymnich) in Lisbon when, upon the initiative of the Romanian ForMin backed by 10 counterparts (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden), they discussed the situation of protracted conflicts in the Eastern Neighborhood and the concrete tools whereby the EU can be more effective and active in resolving them.

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