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Minister Lipavský at FAC
Photo: GSC EU
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Minister Lipavský attended the February EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels


On Monday, 19 February 2024, another regular meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) took place in Brussels, where Czechia was represented by its diplomatic chief Jan Lipavský. The main topics of the meeting were the situation in the Middle East, Russian aggression against Ukraine and EU involvement in the African Sahel. The meeting also featured a speech by Yulia Navalnaya.

When discussing the situation in the Middle East, one of the main topics was the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Minister Lipavský stressed the importance of cooperation between all relevant actors to ensure access to humanitarian aid. As part of efforts to avert the risk of famine, Czechia has contributed to the World Food Programme for aid in Gaza. At the same time, the Minister supported a thorough investigation into the alleged involvement of UNRWA staff in Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel.

The Council also officially launched the military operation EUNAVFOR ASPIDES, which will ensure the protection of merchant ships in the Red Sea and in which two members of the Czech Army will participate. The operation will not take part in actions against the Houthis in Yemen and will thus be defensive in nature. The operation will help to stabilise the region and return international shipping to the Suez Canal, whose blockage in recent months and diversion of traffic via alternative routes has significantly increased the cost of international trade with negative economic consequences.

In the context of the upcoming two-year anniversary of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Czech diplomatic chief confirmed Czechia's unwavering support for Ukraine in its defence and stressed the need for continued political, military and financial support from the EU. Czechia is actively involved in the negotiations on the establishment of a Ukrainian assistance fund for the framework of the European Peace Facility and, in addition to military assistance, supports Ukraine in the EU integration process. Minister Lipavský also voiced support for the adoption of the 13th package of sanctions against Russia before the two-year anniversary of the attack on 24 February and the preparation of further sectoral sanctions measures.

On the sidelines of the discussion on Russian aggression, EU ministers paid tribute to Alexei Navalny, who died as a result of being opressed by the Russian regime for many years. His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, also attended the session. "Today we are joined by an admirable woman - Yulia Navalnaya. I made it clear that Czechia will continue to stand with those who seek a better Russia, free from dictatorship, corruption and violence. Putin managed to get rid of Alex Navalny, but he cannot get rid of his legacy," Minister Lipavský added.

The ministers also discussed the EU's engagement in the Sahel. According to Minister Lipavský, the EU should continue its engagement in the region, especially in view of Russia's destabilising activities. The Czech diplomatic chief also stressed the importance of the EU's strategic communication in the region and recalled the Czech Republic's activities in this regard.

The ministers also discussed the situation in Belarus. Minister Lipavský welcomed the adoption of the Council Conclusions, which emphasise support for the Belarusian people fighting for freedom and democracy in their homeland, also in the light of the upcoming elections.

Prior to the FAC, a working meeting was held with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, who recently visited the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine.