I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Country Croatia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this statement.
The European Union is deeply concerned over the ongoing fighting, the plight of civilians in and around Gaza, the suffering and anguish of all civilian population in the region. We deplore the ongoing hostilities which have led to high numbers of civilian casualties and we want to express our sincere condolences to the families of the Palestinian and Israeli victims. We are profoundly disturbed by the loss of civilian life at the UN school in Jabaliya that resulted from Israeli military action.
The European Union is determined to make every effort to help to stop the current violence and repeats its call for an immediate cessation of military actions on both sides. There must be an unconditional halt to rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel and an end to Israeli military action. The EU urges the parties to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. The EU recalls that no military solution can prevail in Gaza and calls for the establishment of a lasting truce. The EU welcomes the initiative of Presidents Mubarak and Sarkozy and follows with hope the latest development in this direction.
The European Union also calls on the parties, in particular Israel, to grant immediate unhindered and secure passage for the delivery of the humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. The EU welcomes three hour halt of Israeli military operations and calls on Israel to open a humanitarian corridor in Gaza and allow humanitarian organizations free access to the territory. The EU is also ready to step up its already substantial assistance for the improvement of the humanitarian situation of the people in need.
The EU fully supports the international efforts to find an immediate solution to the actual crisis and takes an active part in these efforts. The Foreign Ministers of the Member States of the European Union met in Paris on 30 December 2008 and put forward their proposals to resolve the crisis. Subsequently, a European ministerial delegation led by the EU Presidency, represented by the Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, travelled to the region to seek an end to the violence, to alleviate the current distressing humanitarian situation and to discuss the EU proposals agreed in Paris.
First, the current situation on the ground makes the need to reach an immediate and permanent cease-fire absolutely urgent: There must be an unconditional halt to rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel and an end to Israeli military action. The cessation of fighting should allow lasting and normal opening of all border crossings, as provided for in the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. The European Union is ready to re-dispatch the EUBAM to Rafah to enable its re-opening, in cooperation with Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. It is also willing to examine the possibility of extending its assistance to other crossing points, provided that the issues relating to security have found a satisfactory response.
Secondly, immediate humanitarian action is required: Food, urgent medical supplies and fuel must be delivered to the Gaza Strip, the safe evacuation of the injured must be allowed and immediate access of humanitarian workers should be made possible through the opening of crossing points. The European Union dispatched a field mission to provide the most appropriate response as quickly as possible in cooperation with the United Nations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as well as with NGOs.
Thirdly, the European Union reiterates the need to step up the peace process. In this context, it welcomed the adoption of the Security Council resolution 1850. We are convinced there is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Gaza or elsewhere. The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be based on the process set out in Annapolis and in accordance with the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference, in particular land for peace, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Quartet’s roadmap. It must lead towards the establishment of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza existing side by side with Israel in peace and security. In order to foster a lasting settlement, the European Union, while neither intervening in the negotiations nor prejudging their outcome, reiterates its willingness to assist in the implementation of a final peace agreement, when the time comes. The EU calls upon the parties to desist from any actions that threaten the viability of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement, in conformity with international law.
The European Union is fully aware of the responsibility of the international community, especially the Quartet. The EU also reiterates the importance of the Arab partners’ sustained, broad and constructive commitment. In this respect, it considers that the Arab Peace Initiative offers a solid and appropriate basis for peace in the Middle East to which all parties should give their consideration.
The EU also encourages the inter-Palestinian reconciliation behind President Mahmoud Abbas, commends the mediation efforts of Egypt and the Arab League in this respect and is prepared to support any government which respects the PLO’s commitments, resolutely supports the peace negotiations with Israel, and pursues policies and measures that reflect the Quartet’s principles.
Finally, Mr. President, let me stress once again that the European Union is determined to assist alongside the other members of the Quartet and the regions states in ending violence and re-launching the peace process.
Thank you, Mr. President.
* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process