I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as Ukraine and the republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.
The European Union considers of utmost urgency that a credible peace process which will give the Palestinian people an independent, democratic and viable state living side-by-side with Israel and its other neighbours in peace and security is carried forward. Europe´s resolve in contributing to the resolution of this conflict as part of bringing peace and stability to the Middle East remains unchanged.
In this moment of increased diplomatic initiatives and dialogue we sense a window of opportunity that should not be missed.
The European Union strongly encourages the parties to continue their bilateral dialogue, which should both accomplish concrete results and lead to meaningful political negotiations to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the conflict. Further to the engagement of the parties, the continued support of the international community is crucial to advance the peace process.
The European Union is firmly committed to play an active role, notably in the framework of the Quartet, to put in place a political and diplomatic process offering the perspective for a comprehensive settlement, in conformity with the relevant UNSC resolutions and on the basis of the Road Map, notably its goals and principles. This commitment was renewed last July when the Quartet Principals met in Lisbon, with the participation for the first time of Tony Blair as Quartet Representative.
In this context, the European Union welcomed President Bushs speech of 16 July. We expect the Quartet will participate and play an active role in the preparation of the international meeting proposed.
The European Union also stresses the importance of renewing the Quartet dialogue with the parties and representatives of the Arab League. We believe the Arab Peace Initiative is a major element aimed at advancing regional peace.
We look forward to a fruitful next meeting of the Quartet, in the margins of the General Assembly, to hear the first proposals of the Quartet Representative and further discuss the way forward.
The perspectives opened in the political and diplomatic spheres need to be matched by substantive progress on the ground, where the situation remains of particular concern.
The European Union is deeply concerned by the serious events in Gaza. We reiterate our full support for President Abbas and the government under Prime Minister Fayyad. Reconciliation and national unity behind the programme of peace articulated by President Abbas are the only way to achieve Palestinian national goals by peaceful, lawful and democratic means. The European Union opposes any division of the Palestinian territories and confirms its readiness to engage with all Palestinian parties whose policy and actions reflect the Quartet principles.
We follow with particular apprehension the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. We continue to provide emergency and humanitarian assistance to the population of Gaza. In this context, we urge all parties to work towards the opening of the crossings in and out of Gaza for humanitarian and commercial flows, in accordance with the Agreement of Movement and Access.
Stopping all acts of violence and terror among the parties is of utmost importance for the peace process to succeed. We reiterate our call for the release of the abducted Israeli soldier as well as the Palestinian legislators detained in Israel. Following recent meetings between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, the European Union welcomes, as a first step, the partial transfer by Israel of withheld Palestinian tax and custom revenues and reiterates its call for the immediate and regular release of the remaining and future funds. We also commend the initial release of prisoners. We urge further steps in order to meet the commitments made at these meetings, including the removal of barriers and checkpoints in the West Bank. Such moves will support progress on the political track and help to create the necessary framework and confidence to advance the peace process.
Settlement activities in and around East Jerusalem as well as in the rest of the West Bank and the ongoing construction of the barrier on Palestinian land which are against international law are of particular concern. As we have stated many times, we will not recognise changes to pre-1967 borders other than those agreed by the parties.
The European Union resumed the direct financial and technical assistance to the Palestinian Authority. We are committed to help building the institutions and economy of the future Palestinian State, which we deem will play a fundamental role in expediting the peace process. This is also the core of the mandate of Tony Blair, whose appointment as Quartet Representative the European Union warmly welcomed.
The European Union strongly supports the reinforcement of Lebanon´s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, and its legitimate and democratic Government. We renew the call for the full and speedy implementation of Resolution 1701, 1559 and all other relevant Resolutions and we call on Syria and other countries in the region to refrain from destabilising the country.
The European Union welcomes the decision by the Security Council on the extension of the UNIFIL´s mandate and renews the commitment to continue to play an active role in this force. We strongly condemn all acts of violence against UNIFIL, in particular the one that claimed the lives of six peacekeepers of the Spanish contingent, in June.
The European Union remains deeply concerned with the ongoing violence in Lebanon, in particular at Nahr al Bahred, and reiterates its condemnation of the attacks on Lebanese people and Armed Forces. The European Union urges all political forces to search for a solution to the political deadlock, through dialogue and in the full respect for the democratic institutions of the country. In this context, we also welcome all the constructive initiatives and mediation efforts carried out by the international community.
Thank you, Mister President.