European Law Monitor

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UN Security Council: EU Statement on the debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

Statement by H.E. Ms. Kirsti Lintonen, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union

 Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, 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, Serbia, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine align themselves with this declaration.

*) Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Mr. President,

In recent months, the Middle East has once again witnessed turbulent times. It is now important for all of us to look ahead and work strenuously to stabilise the region. In Lebanon, we have already seen some encouraging developments. The European Union welcomes the overall deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces in Southern Lebanon, supported by UNIFIL. We have noted the almost complete withdrawal of Israeli troops and call on Israel to withdraw also from the Lebanese part of the town of Ghajar in co-ordination with UNIFIL. We stress that Lebanon's sovereignty over its land, sea and airspace must be respected. We also call for the immediate release of the two Israeli soldiers whose abduction sparked the Israeli military operation. The European Union would once again like to reiterate its commitment to support the full implementation of UNSCR 1701.

Mr. President,

We can all recall the numerous useful meetings held during the UNGA ministerial week, including in this Council, on how to break the deadlock in the Middle East. There seems to be a consensus within the international community for an urgent need to make progress towards a comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on relevant Security Council resolutions and the Roadmap, and with a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at its core. In order to achieve this, we first need to focus on the most pressing issues:

The European Union remains deeply concerned at the continued Israeli operation in the Palestinian territories and deplores the loss of civilian life it has brought. It calls on the Palestinian leadership to bring an end to violence and terrorist activities, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory. The recent intra-Palestinian clashes are also a cause of great concern. Violence is not the solution. We call for an end to violence and for restraint from all sides. Security is a matter of concern for everyone.

The European Union once again reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldier. We also repeat our call for the immediate release of Palestinian Ministers and legislators in Israeli custody.

A very pressing issue is the question of the Palestinian government. The European Union expresses its support to President Abbas and calls on the Palestinians to join his efforts towards national unity and the formation of a government with a political platform reflecting the Quartet principles and allowing for early engagement. Such a government would also be a key factor for allowing the European Union to pursue its goal of strengthening the capacity of Palestinian institutions.

Mr. President,

Another issue of utmost urgency is the alarming humanitarian and economic situation in the Palestinian territories. 65% of the Palestinians live below the poverty line and civil servants are on strike since they have not been paid for many months. The European Union has done its utmost to find ways to alleviate the daily lives of the Palestinians. Our combined assistance to the Palestinians in 2006 will be in excess of  €650 million, which is more than in previous years. This assistance is channelled partly via the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM), but also through United Nations organisations and other channels. The TIM has now been extended for a further three months and we are currently examining the modalities for its expansion. We encourage other donors to make full use of the mechanism in order to address the needs of the Palestinian people.

The European Union also reiterates its call for an immediate resumption of transfers of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues by Israel, as this would also have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy. We have called on Israel to consider resumption of such transfers via the TIM to alleviate the deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions in Gaza and the West Bank. We also recall the utmost importance of the full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access, particularly the permanent opening of the Rafah, Karni and other crossings.

Mr. President,

We must all work to solve these pressing issues. We must bear firmly in our minds the overriding goal, an early resumption of dialogue between the two parties with a view to re-launching negotiations on the basis of the Roadmap. As long as this conflict is not resolved, peace will not be secured anywhere in the region. The European Union reiterates its continuing support to Israeli and Palestinian efforts to advance the peace process.