Thank you, Mr. President, and congratulations on Lithuania's presidency of the Security Council. Thank you also, Mr. Secretary General, for your remarks this morning, particularly the forceful comments you made on the Central African Republic.
The United States welcomes High Representative Catherine Ashton back to the Council and thanks her for elaborating on the EU's important relationship with the United Nations. Please allow me to say that we appreciate your personal contributions and we look forward to working with you, High Representative Ashton, through the end of your term, and we of course wish you well in your future endeavors. But we hope and expect to achieve a great deal more together on behalf of international peace and security between now and the end of the year. The Security Council's resolutions and statements on cooperation with regional and sub-regional organizations emphasize the importance of developing effective partnerships and, in that context, we fully support the adoption of today's presidential statement.
We share the EU's conviction that, in response to global challenges, the international community requires an effective and efficient multilateral system, and we appreciate the EU's own focus on effective multilateralism as a key element of its external action. The EU is an indispensable partner to the United Nations, and of course to the United States as well. Allow me to highlight several areas in particular where the EU is making an important contribution internationally to peace, security, and respect for human rights.
The European External Action Service is a young organization, but it is already having a tremendous impact in its own neighborhood. My government appreciates the EU's role in promoting European stability, in particular High Representative Ashton's ongoing leadership of the EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia that led to the landmark agreement in April of last year on normalizing relations. I have had some experience in the region and would have placed myself among the skeptics in the run-up to the dialogue. But the High Representative's tireless efforts, we heard today 226 hours of meetings, and the courageous leadership of Prime Ministers Thaci and Dacic, have shown that by sitting face-to-face, hashing out differences, and focusing on the future, one-time rivals can achieve historic change. They deserve our praise and our support in ensuring the full implementation of their pact, much hard work obviously lies ahead.
The EU's contribution to the goals of the United Nations extend well beyond Europe; from its role as a member in the Quartet on Middle East peace to its engagement on Iran, the EU is working closely with its partners to foster stability and security. And here we welcome the EU's December announcement that it will provide an unprecedented package of political, economic and security support to both the Israelis and the Palestitnians in the context of a final status agreement. The EU role isespecially welcome in Africa, where this Council focuses a great deal of attention. My government commends the EU for its joint Africa-EU strategy, which is striving to advance cooperation on a range of issues, including peace, security, democratic governance, and the Millennium Development Goals. We also applaud the EU's commitment to enhancing the AU's capacity -- through the African Peace Facility -- to address conflict on the continent.
The Council saw the EU's real world impact during our recent visit to Mali. We had the privilege of engaging with the Commander of the EU Training Mission to Mali, Brigadier General Bruno Guibert, to discuss the EU's effort to rebuild the Malian army, which is critical to lasting stability in the country. I was impressed by the hard work of the 550 dedicated military personnel from 23 European countries who are helping the Malian Armed Forces to re-establish their ability to secure the entirety of Mali and to implement needed and crucial reforms that prioritize, among other things, the Malian military's adherence to human rights and international law.
As is well known, the EU is actively engaged in supporting the stabilization of the Central African Republic, providing approximately 200 million euro in humanitarian and security assistance to help the people of the Central African Republic. We welcome the EU's recent announcement of an additional 25 million euro to assist the AU-led mission, and also its agreement to provide up to 500 troops in support of that vital operation. We are hopeful that these troops can be mobilized and deployed very swiftly. In December, when I visited CAR, I was deeply saddened and struck by the terrible violence, which has spread along religious lines and is fueled by an almost total absence of either security or accountability. We need urgently to step up our support for the efforts of Christian and Muslim leaders who are seeking to end the killing and restore a basis for national unity. I applaud the EU for its leadership at this critical time, and look forward to a continual dialogue with the EU, the African Union and all the members of this Council regarding next steps.
We agree strongly with the Secretary General that the situation could not be more urgent. My government also shares the EU's concerns over the crises in South Sudan, and in the broader Sahel. We endorse the EU's efforts to promote peaceful solutions in the Sahel region, including its recent pledge of 142 million euro in humanitarian aid this year to meet the urgent needs of civilians.
The EU is also engaged on a variety of cross-border issues, including combating the scourge of piracy. Accordingly, we welcome the EU's chairmanship of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, established pursuant to the UN Security Council Resolution 1851. We share the EU's commitment to bring the number of piracy attacks and hostage-takings down to zero, and we note the EU's focus on prevention and regional maritime capacity building, its increased engagement with industry, and its efforts to trace financial flows resulting from piracy.
Finally, we welcome the EU's commitment, as expressed in the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions issued on Monday, to remain a vocal advocate for human rights at the UN. The United States shares this dedication to promote and protect fundamental freedoms. Whether it is working to oppose the global crackdown on civil society that is currently underway, to eliminate gender-based violence, to speak out on behalf of the human rights of LGBT persons, or fighting attempts to restrict freedom of expression, the United States stands with the EU in upholding the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Thank you, Mr. President
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