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The EU-mandated tour of the South Caucasus by the Romanian, Austrian and Lithuanian Foreign Ministers sends the respective states "a coordinated message on the need to continue and deepen reforms, in the spirit of the European agenda," Romania's top diplomat Bogdan Aurescu said today, as he spoke alongside his Austrian and Lithuanian counterparts before embarking on the trip.

"Through the visits to Baku, Yerevan and Tbilisi, we are sending a coordinated message on the need to continue and deepen reforms, in the spirit of the European agenda. The visit is also aimed at preparing the Eastern Partnership Summit in December," the Romanian ForMin said.

He also spoke about Romania's role in emphasizing at EU level the importance of addressing protracted conflicts in the Black Sea region.

"It represents a diplomatic success, our country's concern for the stability and security of the Eastern Partnership states has geostrategic connotations, and the resolution of these conflicts is a priority objective," Bogdan Aurescu said.

He also mentioned that the regional tour that starts on Thursday "represents a good opportunity to raise Romania's profile within the European Union and in relation to its partners in the Caucasus, as it comes in a context where Romania's foreign policy marked important and successful moments."

"There are persisting conflicts around the Black Sea, some dating several decades ago, that certainly affect the security and prosperity of the region," he said.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg spoke in this context of the importance the European Union attaches to the South Caucasus. "We have a stake in this region and we cannot and shouldn't leave it to other actors. It's as simple as that," he said. According to him, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict "has shown how quickly seemingly frozen conflicts can erupt and become brutal again."

At the end of his speech, Schallenberg thanked Romania for the "absolutely superb hospitality" shown to Austria's national football team and fans at the two Euro 2020 matches hosted by Bucharest.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis remarked that the mission that starts on Thursday is "unprecedented".

"Three European ministers, three European countries with a European mandate go to the South Caucasus. It is indeed a very strong message of support and engagement. It has never been sent before like this, and we've just dreamed of this level of engagement with countries that are actually on a different path, but are looking to us for stronger engagement," he said.

He went on to say that the visit comes at the "right time" and that the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is not yet healed and that the European Union had a role to play in "healing it faster".

Before boarding the plane, Minister Aurescu told his counterparts: "There is no better place to set off over the Black Sea than Bucharest. Let's go!"

Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu is touring the South Caucasus region over June 24 - 26 accompanied by his Austrian and Lithuanian counterparts Alexander Schallenberg and Gabrielius Landsbergis, on a mandate entrusted by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell; the purpose of this regional tour is to strengthen the EU's geopolitical profile in its neighborhood and increase the EU's involvement and role in resolving protracted conflicts in the region.

The three foreign ministers are traveling together aboard a C 27J Spartan provided by the Romanian Air Force, and their tour includes visits to the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia and Georgia. Also accompanying the delegation is the European Union's Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, Toivo Klaar, as well as other diplomats from the European External Action Service.

The three ministers have a substantive agenda of meetings in Baku, Yerevan and Tbilisi, which also includes top-level receptions (President, Prime Minister) and extensive consultations with counterparts from the three visited states. AGERPRES (RO - author: Oana Ghita, editor: Mihai Simionescu; EN - editor: Simona Klodnischi)

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