Below is the text of the statement made by Alan Duncan, the Minister for Europe and the Americas, in the House of Commons on 2 May 2019.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I attended ​the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 8 April. It was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Luxembourg.

Current affairs

The High Representative and Foreign Ministers had an exchange of views on the most pressing issues on the international agenda. In particular, they expressed their concern over developments in Libya. They urged all parties to implement immediately a humanitarian truce, refrain from any further military escalation and return to the negotiations. They reiterated their full support for the efforts of the UN Special Representative Ghassan Salamé in working towards peace and stability in Libya.

Foreign Ministers also referred to the implementation of the penal code order in Brunei and expressed their strong opposition to cruel and degrading punishments, prohibited by the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which was signed by Brunei in 2015.

In relation to the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, the Council reiterated the EU’s strong opposition to the extraterritorial application of unilateral restrictive measures, which it considered contrary to international law.

Afghanistan

Ministers discussed the situation in Afghanistan. They focused on how the EU could best contribute to current peace efforts. The High Representative debriefed Ministers on her visits to Islamabad on 25 March and Kabul on 26 March.

Eastern partnership

Ministers discussed the eastern partnership (EaP) in view of the EaP ministerial meeting (13 May) and the high-level event (14 May) to mark the EaP’s 10th anniversary. Ministers highlighted the importance of the partnership, which is based on shared values and principles, and an approach combining inclusivity and differentiation.

Ministers welcomed the progress achieved with eastern partnership countries within the “20 deliverable for 2020” framework, and in particular the tangible and concrete results in trade, people-to-people contact, transport, connectivity, infrastructure and economic reform. They agreed that implementation of reforms in sectors such as governance, anti-corruption and the judiciary require additional efforts.

Informal lunch on Venezuela

Foreign Ministers exchanged views on Venezuela. They discussed the outcome of the second meeting of the international contact group (ICG) on 28 March in Quito. They agreed to step up work on the two tracks of the ICG: facilitating humanitarian access, and creating the conditions for free, fair, transparent presidential elections.

Council conclusions

The Council agreed a number of measures without discussion:

The Council adopted conclusions on the Afghanistan’s peace process.

The Council endorsed the framework on counter-terrorism, developed jointly by the UN and the EU. The framework identifies areas for UN-EU co-operation and priorities until 2020.​

The Council endorsed the 2018 progress report on the EU strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The Council concluded the agreement establishing the EU-Latin America and the Caribbean international foundation.

The Council adopted conclusions on the European Court of Auditors’ special report No 15/2018 entitled “Strengthening the capacity of the internal security forces in Niger and Mali: only limited and slow progress”.

The Council authorised the signature of the EU-Pakistan strategic engagement plan on behalf of the EU.

The Council endorsed the continuation of the EU’s action in support of the UN verification and inspection mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM), from 1 April 2019 to 30 September 2019. The EU is contributing €4.9 million to UNVIM for one year.

The Council authorised the opening of negotiations with Vietnam for an agreement to establish a framework for its participation in EU crisis management operations.

The Council adopted conclusions on an EU strategic approach to international cultural relations and a framework for action (ST 7749/19).