EU's chief diplomat urges patience with Iran

8th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

8 May 2007, Brussels (dpa) - "Who speaks for Europe?" famously asked former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1973. These days, most foreign leaders seeking to contact the European Union, simply pick up the phone and call Javier Solana. As the European Union's "high representative" for foreign and security policy, the 65-year old Spaniard - formerly Spain's foreign minister and NATO secretary general - is a familiar figure on the global stage. Among other things, as Europe's de facto foreign ministe

8 May 2007

Brussels (dpa) - "Who speaks for Europe?" famously asked former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1973. These days, most foreign leaders seeking to contact the European Union, simply pick up the phone and call Javier Solana.

As the European Union's "high representative" for foreign and security policy, the 65-year old Spaniard - formerly Spain's foreign minister and NATO secretary general - is a familiar figure on the global stage.

Among other things, as Europe's de facto foreign minister Solana is struggling to convince Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table and ease strained EU relations with an increasingly assertive Russia.

Representing the often-squabbling 27 EU countries is a tough job. But in a wide-ranging interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, Solana showed undimmed enthusiasm for his almost eight-year old role as the bloc's troubleshooter.

True, Iran was still resisting international demands to halt uranium enrichment but getting Tehran to change its mind required time and patience, Solana said.

The EU chief diplomat also insisted on the importance of forging a "deep and solid relationship" with Russia and said the bloc must get a new constitution agreed in 2009 to cope with a changing world.

With upcoming elections in the US and Russia and the emergence of an even more dynamic China, "it would be very sad if we gave the impression that we are in a sort of semi-paralysis institutionally," he said.

Asked if he was losing patience with Iran's hide-and-seek nuclear tactics, Solana warned that getting Iran to the negotiating table was "going to be a long process."

"My position is a very difficult one," he said, referring to his role as EU representative as well as spokesman vis a vis Tehran for Germany and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States.

"We have to convince the Iranians that in order to be part of the international community, you have to play by the rules, not with the rules," Solana insisted.

This would require patience, he said, adding that Iran must realize that foreign policy is not marked by national interest but also by global interests. "That is something Iran has not fully understood," he said.

The EU chief diplomat stressed that Iran was not being stopped from developing nuclear energy for peaceful means but added: "We have to be convinced that this is the objective."

However, reconstructing "trust and confidence" between Tehran and the international community required time. "I will be happy to play that role. We have to avoid failure," he insisted.

Asked about the EU's increasingly troubled relationship with Russia, Solana said he was determined to try and "calm" things down.

"I don't think we should dramatize this moment. It will be overcome... and I hope very much that we will overcome it soon in a constructive manner," he said.

Russia and the EU have locked horns in recent months over energy - Moscow supplies the EU with 25 per cent of its natural gas supplies - EU-member Estonia's decision to remove a Soviet-era monument from the centre of Tallinn and Poland's veto of EU plans to open talks on a new cooperation treaty with Moscow.

Solana said it was true that in these and other areas, Russia was "recuperating its assertiveness" and that there was "an element of contradiction" in attitudes towards Moscow among EU members.

Some EU states from central and eastern Europe dealt with Russia as a neighbour while others saw the country as a "strategic partner," he said. The challenge for the EU was to "accommodate" the two points of view.

"The common interest that we have in maintaining this relationship and making it solid is more important strategically than the tensions we have now," said Solana.

He added that Russia was also more used to working with EU member states on a bilateral level and found it difficult to understand the "functioning of the EU, the solidarity of the EU and how we work."

Not surprisingly, given his unwavering preference for diplomacy and negotiation, Solana is described as "cosmopolitan, knowledgeable, tough, persevering, but also conciliatory and suave," by organizers of the International Charlemagne Prize for contributions to European unification.

Solana will receive the award in the German city of Aachen on May 17, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Spanish diplomat and historian Don Salvador de Madariaga who also received the prize in 1973.

Typically, Solana said he saw the prestigious award not a recognition of past efforts, but "a call for action" for the future.

DPA

Subject: German news

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