I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The European Union stresses the necessity of a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.
In this context, the European Union welcomes the joint understanding reached at the Annapolis Conference between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty before the end of 2008, that should lead to the establishment of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza that will unite all Palestinians, living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours.
In order to consolidate the progress achieved so far and fulfill the potential of this process, it is essential that the parties desist from any actions that threaten the viability of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement, in conformity with international law. Progress in negotiations, enhanced cooperation on the ground and building Palestinian institutions should be concurrent and mutually reinforcing processes.
In this regard, the European Union reminds the importance that the parties implement their Road Map obligations in parallel to their negotiations.
The European Union reiterates its concern about all forms of violence, against Palestinians and Israelis alike. Stopping all acts of violence and terror is of the utmost importance for furthering the Middle East Peace Process. While recognizing Israel´s legitimate right to self defense, the European Union calls on Israel to exercise utmost restraint and underlines that action should not be disproportionate or in contradiction with international law. The European Union also reiterates that it strongly condemns the firing of rockets into Israel.
The European Union is determined to accompany this new momentum by supporting the parties in their negotiations in a sustained and active manner and working closely with other members of the Quartet and partners in the region. The European Union stands ready to adapt and enhance its activities, in areas like security, law and order, institution building, good governance, civil society contributions and support for the Palestinian economy, in order to foster a new, substantive and credible peace process.
In this context, the European Union underlines the importance of the donors conference due to take place in Paris and encourages donors, in this regard, to increase their direct assistance to the Palestinian authority in accordance with its government programme in order to enable it to build a viable and prosperous Palestinian State.
Thank you Mr. President.