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Foreign Secretary at EU Foreign Ministers' meeting on counter-Daesh

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is attending the Foreign Ministers' meeting on 23 May in Brussels, which will focus on the counter-Daesh strategy, Libya and migration

Philip Hammond speaking to media
Philip Hammond speaking to media

Speaking to media ahead of the meeting in Brussels, the Foreign Secretary gave the following remarks:

Do you think the Iraqi army has the capability of leading the war against Isis?

Yes, we’re seeing an increase in the capability of the Iraqi army and a growing self confidence as they’ve had success after success, and they are clearing Daesh out of the Euphrates Valley as well as preparing for the longer term goal of an assault on Mosul.

Does the UK support what is going to happen on Fallujah?

We certainly support the Iraqi government in seeking to clear these remaining pockets of Daesh. This is a centre of Daesh influence that was kind of bypassed in the advance up the Euphrates Valley and I think this shows the strength and influence of the Iraqi forces that they’re now going back and clearing these enclaves of Daesh activity.

The Libyans have written now asking for EU help concerning the coastguards which was a British proposal. How much difference can that make? How do you see that working?

Well it can make a great deal of difference. The Libyan coastguard is the basis on which we have to build security in the coastal waters of Libya. We can provide training, we can provide equipment, we can provide additional technical support. The purpose of the meeting is how we are going to take forward our response to that request from the Libyan government. But I think the key thing is that we’ve now got the Libyan government asking us for that help so that we can work with them to ensure that the Libyan coast is secure. That will cut down arms smuggling along the coast but it will also of course cut down illegal migration towards Europe.

There’s supposed to be a brief discussion on what’s going on in Macedonia, I understand you might be one of those that speak on this. The elections have now been put off – does that deal with the main issue or do you still have concerns?

I think the broader concern that in a country like Macedonia which is on a trajectory towards Europe, towards NATO, there are very clear standards that we expect to be observed, and we expect in all of these applicant countries to see a gradual improvement in the situation. Speaking candidly, in the case of Macedonia over the last 9 months or so, We’ve seen things going backwards and we need to be very clear and blunt with the Macedonians that if we see things going backwards then they can make no further progress towards collaboration with the EU, with NATO. They have to reverse this negative trend, get themselves back on track otherwise all the benefits of association with Europe, with the European Union and with NATO are going to be lost.

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Published 23 May 2016