I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe associated with the European Union – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Associated Countries – Cyprus, Malta and Turkey, as well as the EFTA country of the European Economic Area Iceland – align themselves with this statement.
The Middle East has been through yet another year of violence and tragedy. The appalling events the last weeks exemplify this all too well. Bloodshed, confrontations and provocations have been accompanied by violence, terrorism and military measures. And sadly, once again it has been the ordinary Palestinians and Israelis who have been taken hostage to the conflict and paid the price in terms of human suffering, disillusion and mistrust.
The European Union is gravely concerned about the continued clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. We strongly condemn violent attacks targeted at innocent civilians on either side, including the recent acts of terror and violence. Force cannot defeat force. It only serves to undermine efforts to promote dialogue on security, reforms and a final settlement. The continuing cycle of violence must stop to avoid the almost daily loss of lives among the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations.
The European Union calls on the Palestinian Authority to do all humanly possible to fight terrorist acts against Israel and bring the perpetrators, instigators and sponsors of terrorist acts to justice. Likewise, it calls on Israel to stop the use of excessive force, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detentions, deportations, demolition of houses and infrastructure, confiscation of property and to bring to justice the guilty under due process of law.
The Israeli reoccupation of areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority, its intensified occupation of Palestinian cities as well as the severe restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of persons and goods only serve to aggravate the extremely tense situation. Furthermore, it places severe constraints on the ability of the Palestinian Authority to implement the necessary reforms called for by the international community as well as Israel, prepare for elections and work to ensure the rule of law. We call on Israel to lift the blockade on the occupied territories and withdraw its forces from Palestinian cities to the positions held prior to September 2000. Moreover, Israel should ensure the full, safe and unfettered access to the Occupied territories by humanitarian personnel and assistance.
Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories must stop. Such unilateral actions are illegal under international law and are prejudging a final settlement. It is imperative that they be ended immediately. The European Union fully supports the vision of two states living side by side in peace and security and reconfirms in this regard that the Palestinians have an unqualified right to self-determination and to create an independent state. Likewise, Israel has the right to live in peace and security within internationally recognised borders. We reaffirm, in this regard, the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative endorsed at the Arab League Summit.
More than ever, a clear political perspective is needed in order to ease tensions and rekindle the hopes and aspiration of the peoples in the region for a peaceful solution to the conflict. At the international level serious efforts have been undertaken to restart political talks on the basis of a concrete road map outlining the steps towards Palestinian statehood. Within the Middle East Quartet the major international players have shown their commitment to once again try to broker a final settlement between the parties. The European Union remains committed to continue the work within the Middle East Quartet on a concrete, three-phased road map towards a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement within three years. We call on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to work actively with the Quartet on the road map.
A just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine must be based on UN Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1397, the Madrid terms of reference, in particular the principle of land for peace, and the implementation of all existing agreements between the parties.
Above all, it is up to the parties themselves to seek peace through a process of negotiations. And for such a process to be successful it requires that both parties recognise and accept the elements that I have just outlined as the basis and the goals for a final settlement. For its part, the European Union remains ready in close cooperation with the other members of the Quartet and all parties concerned to assist in the efforts at finding a final and just settlement to the Middle East conflict.
Thank you Mr. President.