Know More About Palestine

Friday June 11, 2010 2:53 PM (EST+7)
EU to raise pressure on Israel to lift Gaza blockade

Read more: Gaza blockade, EU foreign policy, Israeli security, Quartet, United Nations

BRUSSELS, June 11 (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers will call on Israel next week to lift a three-year-old blockade of Gaza which they describe as unacceptable and counterproductive -- including to Israel's security.

In a draft statement prepared for a meeting on Monday, the foreign ministers will condemn the use of violence during Israel's operation to stop a flotilla of aid ships reaching Gaza in which Israeli forces killed nine Turks.

They will also call for a credible, impartial and independent investigation.

The EU also says it is prepared to contribute to a new mechanism for getting goods in and out of Gaza, which would be based on more regular land access and possibly sea crossings to the coastal territory of 1.5 million people.

The policy of closure is unacceptable and counterproductive, including from the point of view of Israel's security, a copy of the draft seen by Reuters reads.

The EU calls for a change of policy leading to an unfettered flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons into Gaza in line with a UN resolution.

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza since mid-2007, when the Hamas militant movement took full control of the territory from its rival Fatah, a year after winning a parliamentary election.

Israel says the measures are designed to prevent arms being smuggled to Hamas and other militant groups.


The EU is the biggest supplier of aid to the Palestinian territories, with member states and the executive European Commission providing about 600 million euros ($722.3 million) a year. The EU is pushing to free up trade with the territories.

In an opinion piece published in European papers on Friday, the foreign ministers of France, Italy and Spain said Israel needed to turn its blockade policy on its head by opening the borders and blocking some listed items, rather than completely closing the borders and allowing in only a few goods.

To guarantee full security of supplies, we propose that inspections supported and funded by the EU should be put in place there in conditions acceptable to all in order to ensure that consignments bound for Gaza contain neither weapons nor explosives, the three foreign ministers wrote.

A similar regime could be considered for maritime consignments bound for Gaza, for example, by deploying EU monitoring teams in Cyprus.

In their statement on Monday, the foreign ministers of all 27 EU countries will reiterate that a two-state solution -- a Palestinian state made up of Gaza and the West Bank living side by side with Israel -- remains the only long-term solution to the conflict, in which the peace process has stalled.

The aim is a peace deal within 24 months as agreed by the Quartet (in March), the draft statement says, referring to the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations, who monitor Middle East peace efforts.

All efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation must be accelerated. Comprehensive peace must include a settlement between Israel and Syria and Israel and Lebanon.







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