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 the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia align themselves with this statement.
The European Union welcomed the cessation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip and since then has been using every opportunity to call on all parties to make the current ceasefire permanent through the full implementation of the UNSC Resolution 1860. Noting the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, the issues which should be addressed without any delay include a sustained halt of rocket launches towards Israel, the urgent opening of the Gaza crossings on a regular and predictable basis and an effective mechanism to prevent arms and ammunition smuggling to the Gaza Strip. The European Union deeply deplores the loss of life during this conflict, particularly the civilian casualties. We continue to remind all parties to the conflict to fully respect human rights and comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law. The European Union will closely follow investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law.
The European Union is gravely concerned by the humanitarian situation on the ground and calls for the unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. Only the immediate and unconditional re-opening of all crossings for the passage of humanitarian aid will reverse the current humanitarian deterioration.
The EU declared, on several occasions, its readiness not only to step up its already substantial emergency aid contribution, but also to work towards rehabilitation, reconstruction, the sustainable economic recovery and future economic development of the Gaza Strip. The EU welcomed the Palestinian Authoritys plan for the recovery and reconstruction of Gaza. We believe that the recent conference in Sharm al-Sheikh has been a success both in raising the necessary funds for reconstruction and economic development and maybe even more importantly in sending a clear signal in support for the Palestinian National Authority. The EU is the largest donor (European Commission: 554 million EUR in 2009 plus bilateral contributions of the Member states) and is determined to play a substantial role alongside the US and the Arab countries in alleviating the dire situation in Gaza. The EU will continue to support the Palestinian economy as a whole: while focusing our attention on Gaza, we must not forget to address the needs in the West Bank since both territories constitute the pillars of a future Palestinian state, viable, contiguous and democratic, living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
Unhindered passage of humanitarian aid, people and commercial goods, must be allowed to ensure recovery and reconstruction in order to provide hope for a better future. The EU has constantly pushed for the sustained re-opening of Gazas borders on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access and is prepared to reactivate and possibly extend its assistance in the management of Gazas borders.
Another essential prerequisite for sustainable recovery and development of the Palestinian society, both in Gaza and at the West Bank, is intra-Palestinian reconciliation. The EU welcomes the reconciliation process launched at the meeting of all Palestinian factions in Cairo on Feb. 26 and strongly encourages the reconciliation behind President Mahmoud Abbas. In this respect, we commend Egypt and the Arab League partners for their mediation efforts.
We are in a transition period waiting for the new Israeli and an interim Palestinian government to be formed. But no matter how their composition will be, the EU clearly expects their representatives to honour obligations entered into by their predecessors.
The EU reiterates its condemnation of continuing firing of rockets into southern Israel. The EU also condemns Israels planned settlement activities. The European Union urgently calls on Israel to reconsider the settlements planned construction which would be in violation of international law; run counter to the Road Map; and is against commitments made by Israel to the Palestinians and the international community in Annapolis in November 2007. The EU has consistently made clear, there can be no sustainable peace in the Middle East without the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Continued settlement activity severely damages this prospect. The EU is also deeply concerned by the issuing of eviction notices in East Jerusalem which combined with the increase in settlement activities further threaten the chances of peace. We call on Israel to suspend these eviction notices immediately. The EU strongly supports a two-state solution as the only realistic option to meet the expectations of both peoples to live in peace and security alongside each other. This perspective has also been reaffirmed by the first meeting of the Middle East Quartet with the new US-Administration on the margins of the Sharm-al-Sheikh conference.
However, there is no solidified truce around Gaza at this stage. We keep supporting Egyptian efforts toward this goal and encourage all parties to come to an agreement as soon as possible. The EU is convinced there is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Gaza or elsewhere. Peace in the Middle East requires a comprehensive solution through a lasting and just settlement of the conflict in all its tracks based on the relevant UNSC resolutions, the Road Map, and previous agreements reached between the parties. We consider the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 a solid and appropriate basis for achieving stability, peace and security in the region. The European Union stands ready to actively work towards this goal.
Thank you, Mr. President.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process