EU, Arab League foreign ministers convene in Egypt

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, along with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, is expected to formally launch a situation room designed to boost coordination between the European Union and League of Arab States. Photo by: Violaine Martin / United Nations – Geneva / CC BY-NC-ND

The formal launch of a situation room designed to boost coordination between the European Union and League of Arab States in times of crisis is among expected highlights at today’s (Nov. 13) meeting of the two blocs’ foreign ministers.

Twenty-two foreign ministers from Arab League member states and 27 European Union ministers, along with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, are expected at the meeting in Cairo, Egypt, where the Arab League headquarters is located. This is the second meeting of its kind since 2008, when EU and Arab League foreign ministers first met in Malta. It is the first time the Arab League is hosting EU foreign ministers.

At the meeting, Ashton and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby will inaugurate a crisis room established with EU funding. Located at the Arab League head office building, the room is equipped with computers, television screens and satellite communication equipment. The European Union provided $2.6 million for the construction of the room while the Arab League added some $471,000, according to the U.N. Development Program, which managed the project.

The European Union also helped train personnel tasked to man the crisis room, which was “switched on” earlier this year and is open 16 to 18 hours a day.

The inauguration of the crisis room, through which the European Union expects closer and faster coordination with the Arab League, is in line with the theme of the Cairo meeting: to identify common ground for EU and Arab efforts and develop a “common vision” for the crises and other events facing the region.

Foreign ministers participating in the meeting will tackle the way forward on EU-Arab cooperation on humanitarian aid and counterterrorism efforts, among other things, as well as discuss various foreign policy issues, including the Syrian conflict and the Middle East peace process, Michael Mann, chief spokesman for Ashton, told Devex.

The foreign ministers are expected to endorse a declaration at the end of their meeting.

Adrienne Valdez contributed reporting.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.