The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, welcomed German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to London today.
The talks covered the crisis in Ukraine, the conflict in Syria, and negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme and the Middle East Peace Process. They also discussed EU reform and the need for Europe to deliver growth and support business in order to maintain our global competitiveness, including free trade talks.
The Foreign Secretary said:
I am delighted to welcome Frank-Walter Steinmeier on his first visit to London as Foreign Minister of Germany.
Germany is one of our most important partners in the world; in trade, foreign policy and in Europe. Ours is a relationship based on friendship and common interests, and we agreed today to strengthen those ties further. Over the last few years there has been a strong intensification of the links between British and German Ministers. This is something we are continuing with the new Government, and in fact 10 of the 16 German Cabinet Ministers are meeting their British counterparts before Easter.
We talked about the need to reform the EU to make it more competitive, and more democratically accountable: so that we strengthen the achievements that make the most difference to the lives of citizens across Europe, enable our economies to compete and thrive in the 21st century global landscape, and ensure a European Union built on sustainable democratic foundations.
Both our countries want to see strong growth in the economies of Europe, and the EU playing its part in supporting that. We are also staunch advocates of the strengthening of the Single Market, and of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the United States, which would bring immense benefits to all our citizens.
On Ukraine, the Foreign Minister and I share deep concerns and the need to see democracy and the rule of law properly upheld. We condemn violence and are very concerned by reports of disappearances and torture. We call for all these cases to be fully and transparently investigated. It is essential that the Ukrainian government take urgent action to build confidence and trust, and to facilitate genuine political dialogue, reversing the decline in democratic standards and human rights and laying the foundations for free and fair elections.
On the conflict in Syria, I deplore the reported killing of over 80 people in Aleppo this weekend, by the regime deliberately unleashing barrel bombs on the civilian population. It comes on top of the deliberate starvation of civilians in Homs and other besieged areas, which is grotesque and utterly unacceptable. The United Kingdom also believes that there is a compelling case for bringing the humanitarian situation back under discussion in the Security Council. I have discussed with the Foreign Minister today this and other steps to ensure that aid reaches all those in Syria who need it.
On Iran, Germany has been a steadfast partner in helping to achieve the interim nuclear deal with Iran. Frank-Walter and I want to see a comprehensive agreement – and we agree that to maximise the chances of achieving one, the EU needs to maintain pressure through robust enforcement of sanctions. We look forward to continuing our work together when the negotiations resume in a fortnight.
On the Middle East Peace Process, we are united in our support for Secretary Kerry’s push to achieve a Framework agreement. We agreed to continue our close cooperation so that the EU is able to play its important role supporting both parties.
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