27th Jan 2021

EU calls for Palestinian unity government

  • The EU has offered to bolster its mission monitoring the Rafah border crossing (Photo: Wikipedia)

The European Union late on Sunday (25 January) called for the divided Palestinian leadership to unite to support the opening of border crossings to allow humanitarian aid and other goods into the Gaza Strip.

"We believe that Palestinian reconciliation behind president Mahmud Abbas is fundamental to progress," Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg told reporters after the meeting. Prague currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency.

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Foreign ministers from the 27-state bloc held discussions with Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey.

Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store was also at the meeting. Norway is not a member of the EU but has maintained some relations with the Hamas government in Gaza, while the EU has since 2003 ended all contact with the militant group, classifying it as a terrorist organisation.

EU member states have said they will aid efforts to halt arms trafficking via Egypt by relaunching and strengthening its monitoring presence at the Rafah border crossing, while France, Germany and the UK have offered to send naval patrols to guard against weapons shipments.

"The reunification of the Palestinian people with a single voice to speak to them, to speak for the West Bank and for Gaza is absolutely essential," UK foreign secretary David Miliband said after the meeting.

Governance of the two occupied Palestinian territories has been split between Islamist Hamas and its secular rival Fatah since June 2007.

The Fatah-controlled Palestinian National Authority welcomed what it sees as EU endorsement of its leadership.

"Today we have heard very clearly the statement of support unanimously by all the EU members that the PNA is the only legitimate authority, and has representation not only in the West Bank but also in the Gaza Strip," Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riad al-Malki said.

Separately on Sunday, a delegation of Hamas representatives met with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to discuss a long-term truce with Israel.

During the discussions, Hamas proposed a one-year truce in return for a lifting of Israel's blockade of Gaza. Tel Aviv, for its part, is looking for an 18-month truce and is offering a partial reopening of the border.

Israel is permitting the delivery of some food and medicine, but rejects a full opening of the border at the moment.

Around 125 trucks are allowed into the territory per day, according to the Israel Defense Forces. On Friday, international aid group Oxfam said for sufficient supplies to enter Gaza, 500 trucks were required.

Human rights and aid groups will be disappointed with the result of the meeting. In Brussels also on Friday, Lotte Leicht of Human Rights Watch said her organisation was looking to hear from EU foreign ministers "an urgent signal calling on Israel to end the blockade."

The International Crisis Group also said ending the blockade was key to moving forward.

"Any continuation of the blockade would constitute a breach of international law," said Alain Deletroz of the ICG at a press conference. "Europeans should be leading. Obama hasn't sent any strong message yet, which leaves Europe to take the lead - if it wants it."

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