Date of release : 30-05-2005
Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations
Event : VIIth Ministerial Euro-Mediterranean Conference
Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign Affairs and current President of the Council of the European Union, held a press conference after the meetings of the Troika with the Arab Group and Israel, which took place on 30 May within the framework of the 7th Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference. He stated:
“As has become tradition, this afternoon we held meetings of the Troika with the Arab Group and Israel shortly before the Euromed Ministerial meeting itself. I can tell you that the atmosphere at the two meetings was very positive.
The peace process in the Middle East was, obviously, as you might expect, the focus of the two meetings.
We again welcomed the results of the Sharm el-Sheik Summit of 8 February and the determination of both parties to work together in a spirit of understanding and cooperation to relaunch the peace process.
We reaffirmed the commitment of the Union to continue to support the parties in their efforts and we encouraged them to implement rapidly the Sharm el-Sheikh commitments.
The decision by the Israeli government to release 400 Palestinian prisoners is good news.
The objective of the EU remains the co-existence of an independent democratic Palestinian State that is viable, living alongside Israel and its other neighbours in peace and security. We also agree that a fair, sustainable and global peace should respond to the legitimate desires of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, and should encompass Lebanon and Syria.
As we see it, the roadmap remains central to the success of this process. The European Union will support the parties in the difficult tasks they have ahead of them.
The European Union continues to support the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and certain parts of the north of the West Bank as a first step in the global process, which should be implemented in accordance with the conditions defined by the European Council of March 2004, and especially within the framework of the roadmap.
This is not easy. More than 1600 families live in the settlements. Silvan Shalom told us that only 30 families are prepared to accept the assistance of the Israeli government. That is not very many, and it is therefore a major challenge for the Israeli government.
The Philadelphia corridor between Egypt and Gaza is also an important point which we must attempt to resolve.
There is another point we think important: that the settlers be convinced, and I am certain that this will happen, to leave their houses without destroying them. That would be a catastrophic omen for the withdrawal from Gaza if all the houses were actually to be destroyed. Hundreds and hundreds of Palestinian families could use these houses and have a chance to begin their lives again with dignity. We will also do everything on our side to encourage Israel not to demolish these houses, but to make them available to the people of Gaza. This is also part of M Wolfensohn’s mission, which he should integrate into his immediate plan.
It is important that the port be reopened and we also hope that the Gaza airport will be available to the people of Gaza when they go abroad.
In addition to the efforts made by the two parties towards making this withdrawal a success, the mission of M Wolfensohn, the Quartet’s special envoy for disengagement is of particular importance. As we see it, his mission cannot succeed unless all the economic, security and political conditions are met.
While the Barcelona Process is not the forum for finding a resolution to the Middle East conflict, I am convinced that our partnership can make a positive contribution to increasing mutual understanding and strengthening cooperation. This is the only forum in which all of the parties have gathered at the same table.
It is in this spirit of respect and mutual understanding that we intend to continue our work in Luxembourg."