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Foreign Minister Schallenberg in Brussels for Foreign Affairs Council

AUSTRIA, January 22 - On 23 January, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and his EU counterparts participated in the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels. The discussion focussed on the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine along with current developments in Iran. The EU foreign ministers also talked about the situation in the Sahel and in West Africa, as well as the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There was also a conversation with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. 

In advance of the meeting, on the initiative of Foreign Minister Schallenberg, the EU foreign ministers had already met with Foreign Minister Rafael Grossi, General Director of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Their discussion centred around issues of nuclear security in Ukraine in the context of the Russian aggression, including the set-up of security zones around nuclear power plants in disputed areas. General Director Grossi also reported on his most recent trip to the country. Another topic the foreign ministers discussed with the IAEA General Director was Iran’s nuclear programme. 

The IAEA plays a key role in the most urgent crises that we are facing today: the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, and the concerning downward spiral in Iran,

said Foreign Minister Schallenberg, acknowledging the IAEA’s important role in dealing with current global challenges.

The current situation in Iran was also addressed during the subsequent meeting of EU foreign ministers. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg again stressed that violence, arbitrary arrests, death sentences, and executions were completely unacceptable. During their meeting, in light of these ongoing severe human-rights violations, the EU foreign ministers approved a fourth package of sanctions aimed at the persons and organisations responsible for brutally suppressing protests in Iran.

Iran is on a collision course with us and with its own people, and it is attempting to crush the civil society movement with enormous brutality. At the same time, it is abandoning every security mechanism in its nuclear programme. Consequently, today we approved additional sanctions against the country’s political decision-makers,

said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. 

Another item on the meeting agenda was the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg emphasised that the EU must continue its worldwide campaign to fight Russia’s narrative justifying its unprovoked aggression against a neighbour state, in violation of international law. Further, the Foreign Minister highlighted the need to fully investigate Russian war crimes. 

Ensuring responsibility for war crimes committed in Ukraine is an important priority for the European Union. This is one of the most blatant violations of the UN charter in recent decades, by a state that is a standing member of the UN Security Council and the largest nuclear power on the planet,

said Foreign Minister Schallenberg. He then noted Austria’s support for the Vienna-based Investigation Commission of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as well as the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Regarding the situation in Montenegro, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg reported to his counterparts on his trip with Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon, taken at the request of Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In their meetings with Montenegrin decision-makers, he said, they had expressed the EU’s concerns about the current internal political stalemate and Montenegro’s lack of progress in moving towards Europe. In response to the visit, a process has now been initiated to fill four long-vacant judicial positions in the constitutional court.

In addition, the EU foreign ministers talked about current developments in the Sahel and the West African states. Foreign Minister Schallenberg noted that increasing instability in both regions could lead to a rise in illegal migration to Europe. In this context, he said, it was important to continue joint efforts against Russia’s increasing influence on the continent.

With regard to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the EU foreign ministers approved the deployment of around a hundred border observers to Armenia in order to keep the peace. Foreign Minister Schallenberg once again affirmed Austria’s support for this measure, which he had previously expressed during a bilateral meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan on 17 January 2023.