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The videoconference was called today by Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative, for several reasons: In Belarus peaceful protests, following last Sunday’s presidential elections, have been met with violence. They discussed the situation in Lebanon after the explosion in Beirut's port. Additionally the foreign ministers discussed EU-Turkey relations and the situation in Venezuela.

You can find a summary of the Extraordinary Meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council here:

Background

Belarus

Minimum standards for the conduct of democratic elections were manifestly not respected in connection with the presidential elections in Belarus last Sunday. The numerous reports of systematic irregularities and violations of electoral law appear credible, and election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe were not able to go about their work. Belarusian election observers were also obstructed in their work.

The German Government condemns the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators on the streets of Minsk and elsewhere in the country. It also condemns the arrest of numerous Belarusian and foreign journalists and restrictions on internet access. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the following before today's meeting:

As the EU, we want to significantly increase the pressure on Belarus today. The election result must be reviewed and those responsible for mistreatments of peaceful demonstrators must be sanctioned.

During today’s Foreign Affairs Council, Foreign Minister Maas advocated for a clear and unified response by the EU to the situation in Belarus. On 11 August, EU High Representative Borrell issued a declaration on behalf of the EU about the presidential elections, in which he emphasised that the elections were neither free or fair.

Eastern Mediterranean

Relations between the EU and Turkey were also on the agenda. This is due to Turkey’s continued activities in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which adversely affect the EU’s interests and the sovereignty of its member states, and which are contrary to international law. Turkey recently continued its exploratory drilling for natural gas in this area.

At their last meeting on 13 July, the EU foreign ministers affirmed their full support for High Representative Borrell. He had stressed the importance of good relations between the EU and Turkey, but had also noted that the values, principles and interests of the EU had to be respected. The EU has also asked Turkey to play an active role in implementing the arms embargo in Libya and to comply with the obligations entered into as part of the Berlin Process.

The German Government is following the situation with great concern. Urgently needed now are credible steps towards de-escalation. Foreign Minister Maas therefore consulted with his EU colleagues on how to promote dialogue between those concerned. He had this to say before today's meeting:

We will also talk about the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. The provocations must end. What we need is a political solution by means of a direct dialogue between the parties involved.

Lebanon

After the devastating explosion in Beirut, the city’s port and surrounding residential areas now lie in ruins, leaving 300,000 people homeless. Tens of thousands of Lebanese have since demonstrated against the country's political leadership. The current government has resigned but remains in office in a caretaker capacity. The protestors are demanding an investigation into the events surrounding the disaster and calling for reform of the present quota-driven political system as well as the country's economic and financial sectors. Lebanon was already suffering a severe economic crisis, a reason for the current protests.

The German Government considers transparency to be the basis for further essential international economic and financial assistance. During his visit to Beirut on Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made this clear. Over 250 million euro worth of aid was pledged at last week’s international donor conference for Lebanon. As a first step, Germany has pledged 21.8 million euro in emergency aid. Foreign Minister Maas said the following during his visit:

The scope of devastation and destruction is nearly unfathomable. Lebanon needs swift economic reforms. This is what the women and men of Lebanon expect.

During their virtual meeting, Foreign Minister Maas and his colleagues discussed which political approach can best support a transition in Lebanon.

Venezuela

The EU foreign ministers addressed the current developments in Venezuela, a country in deep political, economic and humanitarian crisis. More than 9.3 million Venezuelans do not have enough to eat. The medical situation is catastrophic and in many parts of the country demands for electricity, water and access to healthcare can no longer be met. The EU is ready to contribute to a process, in particular through the International Contact Group on Venezuela, that incorporates free and fair presidential elections and leads to the restoration of democracy and the rule of law.