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ForMin Aurescu, Austrian, Lithuanian counterparts to visit South Caucasus to strengthen EU's geopolitical profile

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Bogdan Aurescu

Romania's Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu will be touring the South Caucasus, June 24-26, accompanied by Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis to strengthen the European Union's geopolitical profile in its own neighbourhood, to increase the EU's involvement and role in resolving protracted conflicts in the region.

According to the Romanian Foreign Ministry (MAE), the three foreign ministers are travelling together under a mandate given by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. They are leaving from Bucharest by an aircraft provided by Romania. The tour includes visits to Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. The delegation of the three European foreign ministers will be joined by the European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia Toivo Klaar, as well as other diplomats from the European External Action Service, agerpres report.

The three ministers will have a busy schedule of meetings in Baku, Yerevan and Tbilisi that will include high-level receptions and extensive consultations with counterparts from the three countries visited.

"The aim of the visit is to strengthen the EU's geopolitical profile in its own neighbourhood, to increase the EU's involvement and role in resolving protracted conflicts in the region, as well as to streamline and enhance the cohesion of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, as well as to secure a more active involvement of the EU member states and the 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 stabilisation of the situation on the ground, post-conflict reconstruction and implementing confidence-building measures," MAE says in a press statement.

It also says that the approach of the three heads of diplomacy will thus contribute to strengthening a positive EU agenda in the region and expressing clear support on the part of the EU and the member states for stability and security.

"Thus, the three European foreign ministers will send a strong signal regarding the EU's openness and interest in supporting extensive co-operation among the countries of the South Caucasus, including through opportunities under the Eastern Partnership. In fact, stimulating increased co-operation among the countries in that region on protracted conflicts was one of the proposals put forward by the Romanian foreign minister at the Gymnich meeting in Lisbon in May. The tour also designed to prepare an Eastern Partnership Summit for December," the statement reads.

MAE adds that this tour is of great interest to Romania, which sees the South Caucasus as an area of utmost geopolitical interest, and the resolution of protracted conflicts in the Black Sea region is a strategic objective.

The approach, according to MAE, is a first concrete result of the proposals advanced by Aurescu at the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers (Gymnich format) in Lisbon on May 27, which, at the initiative of Aurescu supported by 10 other counterparts (from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden), discussed the state of protracted conflicts in the Eastern Neighbourhood, and concrete tools by which the EU can be more effective and active in resolving them.

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