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European Union (EU)
19 December 2005
Brussels, 19 December 2005
EU High Representative for the CFSP,
pleased with Rafah border crossing management, appeals to
Palestinian militant groups to renounce violence
Javier SOLANA, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, paid a full-day visit to Gaza today, Sunday 18 December, taking in Erez, Gaza City and the Egyptian border at Rafah. HR Solana toured the Rafah border terminal installations and met the European members of the European border assistance mission.
He also visited the Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza. He met members of the European Union Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (COPPS), which is working on a three-year plan for the development and transformation of the Palestinian police forces.
HR Solana met the Palestinian President, Mahmoud ABBAS, as well as the former Minister for Civilian Affairs, Mohamed DAHLAN, now in charge of supervising the Rafah crossing.
Mr Solana discussed cooperation between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the EU, in particular in relation to the Rafah monitoring mission and police assistance. He also discussed the latest developments in the Palestinian Territories and preparations for the forthcoming elections to the Legislative Council. HR Solana thanked his Palestinian interlocutors for the good cooperation established with the EU and encouraged them to continue on the path of reform.
The following is a summary of HR Solana's remarks to the press at the Rafah terminal:
“I am very pleased to be here. I had the opportunity of touring the terminal. I am impressed by the work that is being done by the Palestinian border monitors and the EU monitors. I want to commend the Palestinian Authority, in particular Minister Mohamed Dahlan, for the excellent organization of the terminal. Since it opened on 26 November, more than 20 000 people have been able to cross the border between Gaza and Egypt. That is now more than 1 000 a day in both directions. This is an important achievement, after the disengagement of Israel from Gaza. It means a clear improvement in the quality of life for the Palestinians. I am pleased to see that the Europeans are contributing to this important step.
Earlier, I visited the headquarters of the Palestinian police in Gaza City. There the EU police advisers are working to help develop the necessary knowledge, experience and capacity to progressively build modern and efficient Palestinian security structures. The EU police advisory mission will expand in January in terms of both personnel and scope.
The presence on the ground of the EU in Gaza and overall in the PA Territories is taking place at a crucial and dynamic moment, just as the Palestinians are preparing to vote on 25 January and elect a new Legislative Council. Precisely at this complex moment let me confirm the wholesale commitment of the EU to the peace process and the implementation of the road map. At this critical juncture, let me make an appeal for unity and responsibility.
One last word of gratitude to the EU personnel deployed here in the EU BAM mission and EU-POL COPPS and of praise for the work done”.
In response to several questions regarding the role of Hamas before and after the elections, HR Solana said:
“The decision as to who is entitled to participate in Palestinian elections is entirely a Palestinian one, according to the laws of the Palestinian Authority. I do not want to interfere. The EU does not oppose the participation of Hamas or any other organization in the elections. The right to participate has been decided by the Palestinian Authority.
Nevertheless, as the EU leaders said when they met in Brussels on Friday, all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, should renounce violence. They should recognize the right of Israel to exist and they should disarm. It is clear that those who want to be part of the political process should not engage in armed activities. There is a total contradiction between violent actions and building a democratic state.
One cannot exclude that the Europeans think twice about their engagement with the Palestinian Authority and about committing their taxpayers' money if members of the elected Palestinian leadership do not renounce violence and do not recognize Israel.”