15th Apr 2024

EU manages to issue joint call for ceasefire in Israel-Gaza war

  • This comes after the US announced that it has submitted a draft resolution to the UN security council that calls for an 'immediate and sustained ceasefire' (Photo: UNRWA)
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EU leaders agreed on Thursday (21 March) to call for an "immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable ceasefire" in the Israel-Gaza war — marking the first common statement on the situation in the Middle East since October.

"It was extremely important to send a powerful and united message," said EU council president Charles Michel after the summit meeting in Brussels.

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With this message, we are a "credible actor" supporting all efforts for the two-state solution, Michel said.

This comes after US secretary of state Antony Blinken announced that Washington has submitted a draft resolution to the UN security council that calls for an "immediate and sustained ceasefire".

To date, more than 31,000 people have been killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, where Israel's blockade of humanitarian access is only exacerbating the situation of a population who is already facing famine in the north.

"The right of defence must be subject to law and must respect human life," said Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa ahead of the meeting. "This situation isn't acceptable," he added.

"It [Israel] has also the duty to do everything possible to protect every civilian life," said German EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

"More humanitarian aid needs to reach Gaza," she said, adding that the land routes are the most important, with some 500 trucks of humanitarian aid waiting for Israel to let them in.

In their summit conclusions, EU heads of state and government also raised concerns over the "catastrophic" humanitarian situation in Gaza and "the imminent risk of famine."

They also called on the Israeli government to refrain from a ground operation in Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where about 1.5 million people are now sheltering.

In their final text, leaders noted that such an operation would worsen "the already catastrophic humanitarian situation" and" prevent the urgently needed provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance".

EU leaders also said that all parties must respect international law, demanding the immediate release of hostages with no precondition.

And they said that the services of the UN agency UNRWA are "indispensable" in the region, despite some EU member states temporarily withdrawing their funding after Israeli allegations about the involvement of 12 staff members at UNRWA in the 7 October attacks.

EU summit risks failing Gaza once again, Ireland warns

Austrians and Czechs might block an EU statement calling for an Israeli ceasefire, Ireland warned, as leaders met in Brussels amid starvation in Gaza. Israel's conduct of the war meant it had "squandered the support they had", Leo Varadkar said.

US and EU breaking taboos to restrain Israel

The US abstained and all EU states on the UN Security Council backed a call for an "immediate ceasefire" in Gaza, as Europe prepares to also blacklist extremist Israeli settlers.

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