I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe associated with the European Union, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the associated countries of Cyprus, Malta and Turkey, and Iceland, EFTA country belonging to the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.
Since our debate last year the situation in the Middle East has worsened considerably. The bloody incidents and the provocations have increased both in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. They have aggravated an already worrying situation and rendered ineffective the international community’s efforts to secure the relaunch of a political process.
On the ground, there seems to be no end to the cycle of violent acts and reprisals. Since September last year, the conflict has cost the lives of nearly a thousand people and left thousands injured. Innocent civilians on both sides are affected by the confrontations, the terror, the provocations and the violence. The populations are suffering. They cannot remain hostage to the conflict indefinitely. The lack of a political perspective encourages further confrontation and plays into the hands of the extremists. But there are no winners in this chain of confrontation and violence. The parties must get back to the path of dialogue and negotiation without delay.
Six months ago, a diagnosis was made and a remedy was suggested. On 22 May, the Sharm el Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee delivered its report. That report and its realistic and balanced recommendations enjoy wide international support. The European Union supports them unreservedly. Both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority have accepted them. These recommendations form the most suitable basis for finding a way out of the crisis.
The broad lines of a way-out do exist, therefore, but the decisions to be taken require political will and courage. We call upon the Israelis and the Palestinians to ensure the full and unconditional implementation of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet Plan, especially as regards the cessation of violence and an immediate freeze on settlement activity. Only in this way will it be possible to build peace between the parties. Moreover, a political perspective must accompany conciliation and be the driving force behind it.
The European Union calls on the Palestinian Authority to do all it can to halt the violence against Israel, and more particularly to arrest and bring before the courts the perpetrators, instigators and sponsors of terrorist acts. It also calls on upon it to combat incitement in all its forms.
The Union condemns the Israeli army’s reoccupation of areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority and takes note of the withdrawal of its forces from Area A. It recalls the need for an immediate lifting of the closures in the Palestinian territories. It also recalls that extra-judicial executions are illegal under international law and unacceptable, and it calls on Israel to exercise the greatest restraint in the use of military force. We finally call on the Israeli government to facilitate the access of humanitarian staff and assistance to the Palestinian populations.
Among the measures identified by the Mitchell Report to restore trust between the parties, there is a recommendation calling for a total freeze on settlement activity, including the natural growth of existing settlements. In the Union’s view, these activities are prejudicial to the outcome of the negotiations and are contrary to international law. Moreover, this policy will not assist the search for a just and lasting peace. It is imperative that it be ended immediately.
The European Union continues to be in favor of setting up a third party monitoring mechanism, in agreement with the parties, so as to help them overcome their differences and the obstacles they encounter in their efforts at reconciliation. It remains willing to contribute to such a mechanism.
The parties have to seize the opportunity offered by the Mitchell recommendations to resume the negotiations. In this connection, the Union shares the vision and salutes the commitment of the President of the United States, George W. Bush, in his search for a peace in the Middle East, as outlined by himself before this Assembly on 10 November, based on the implementation of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and on the peaceful coexistence of two States, Israel and Palestine, and reiterated in Kentucky by Secretary of State Colin Powell. This should allow us to cooperate even more. That commitment offers the possibility of achieving a cease-fire and resuming political negotiations in order to establish an overall agreement putting an end to this historic conflict. After more than a year of violence, it is clear that only negotiation, taking into consideration the expectations of both parties, is capable of bringing about a definitive resolution of the Palestine question.
The European Union is convinced that the “peace process” framework is the only reasonable hope of ending this conflict. There is absolutely no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians and Israelis want to live in peace.
In the framework of the peace process, numerous stages have been completed, despite difficulties and obstacles of every kind. The elements of an agreement have been produced, which it is necessary to preserve and, more importantly, bring to fruition. A just and lasting settlement of the question op Palestine must be based on the principles of the Madrid Conference, in particular the principle of land for peace, and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Then there are the agreements signed by the parties, which have led to real results on the ground, and the progress made in previous discussions and negotiations.
In the present situation, the European Union calls on both parties to do their utmost on the political, security, economic and social fronts, to return to the path of negotiation without prior conditions and with the aim of satisfying the legitimate expectations of the peoples in the region as expressed at the Madrid Conference in 1991.
For the Palestinians, this means the establishing of a viable and democratic State and an end to the occupation of their territories. It is on the basis of the declarations it adopted at Berlin and New York that the Union reaffirms that the Palestinians retain an unqualified right to self-determination, including the right to create their independent State. For the Israelis, it means the right to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders. The European Union has always recognized Israel’s legitimate concerns in this area, and wishes to stress its commitment vis-à-vis its security.
The search for peace is above all a matter for the parties themselves through a process of negotiation of all elements that have to be settled in the framework of the Permanent Status. This involves in particular the prospect of a just and viable solution to the issues of Jerusalem and refugees, and the provision of economic support for the Palestinian population.
The European Union, in close collaboration with all parties concerned, namely the United States, the Russian Federation and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, but also the regional partners such as Jordan and Egypt, reaffirms its readiness to assist in finding a definitive solution to the conflict.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.