Friday 22 March 2019

No 'Brexit deal in the desert' as Taoiseach to attend first ever EU-Arab League summit in Egypt

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meets with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz before the first European Union and Arab League Summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, February 23, 2019 in this handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency. The Egyptian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meets with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz before the first European Union and Arab League Summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, February 23, 2019 in this handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency. The Egyptian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A so-called Brexit ‘deal in the desert’ is being ruled out as Europe’s leadership including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Theresa May decamp to Egypt today.

Amid heavy security in the troubled country, prime ministers from across EU and the Arab League of States have gathered for a first of its kind summit.

Mr Varadkar and Mrs May Photo: Maxwells
Mr Varadkar and Mrs May Photo: Maxwells

Brexit is not on the agenda but with both Mr Varadkar and Prime Minister May both in attendance they will be vying for the attention of other EU leaders.

Mrs May is expected to meet with EU Council President Donald Tusk on the fringes of the conference to discuss changes on the Irish backstop. However, sources have ruled out a “deal in the desert”.

Ahead of arriving in Sharm El-Sheiki, Mr Varadkar said: “While Brexit is not on the agenda for the Summit, the event will provide me with the opportunity to discuss the latest developments with many of my EU counterparts who will be in attendance.”

The main purpose of the two-day summit is for leaders to consider how to strengthen cooperation on issues of mutual interest including multi-lateralism, regional peace and stability, migration, human rights, counter-terrorism, trade, economic development and climate action.

The Taoiseach will make a formal statement during the plenary sessions, and will take the opportunity to highlight Ireland’s priorities and perspective on a range of foreign policy issues.

It is expected he is to canvass support for Ireland’s bid to win a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in June 2020 for the 2021-2022 term.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

“This is the first time that leaders from EU member states and the Arab League have come together in this format to discuss shared priorities. Ireland has strong links with a number of Arab League states, through trade, our peacekeeping efforts in the Middle East and our significant expat communities in the Gulf. Also, we will soon open new embassies in Amman and Rabat,” Mr Varadkar said. 

“Although we do not agree on everything, this Summit will provide an important opportunity for open dialogue on how we can enhance the Euro-Arab partnership and take on regional challenges, including co-operation on migration, security and counter-terrorism.”

The League of Arab States is the only pan-Arab grouping gathering all Arab countries. It includes 22 member states from Africa and the Middle East: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Syria's membership was suspended in 2011, and it is not participating in the summit.

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