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