Question of Palestine home
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6 June 2007
Wednesday debate on the Middle East
- 06-06-2007 - 15:30
Following President Pöttering's visit to the Middle East last week Parliament stages a major debate today on the deteriorating situation in the region. Recent fighting between Lebanese troops and Palestinian militants around refugee camps in Lebanon, as well as continuing violence between Israel and the Palestinians has raised concerns in the international community. Prior to the debate the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana will brief MEPs.
Over the last month there have been a number of worrying developments in the region.
In the Gaza strip clashes between Israel and the Palestinian authorities have left scores dead.
Further north, on the shores of the Mediterranean, there has been fighting between the Lebanese army and Islamic militants at two Palestinian refugee camps. The government in Beirut has blamed Syria for encouraging the militants. The refugee camps house over 400 thousand Palestinians displaced during several Israel- Palestinian conflicts. These refugees long for the "right to return" to homes that are now part of Israel.
Relations between Damascus and Beirut have been strained over Syria's involvement in Lebanon's affairs and last week's vote by the UN to establish an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri in 2005.
In the wider Middle East the insurgency in Iraq and the tension with Iran over its nuclear programme add to the sense of urgency.
Funding for Palestinian National Unity Government
The victory by Hamas in Palestinian legislative elections in January prompted EU governments to suspend financial assistance except for emergency humanitarian funding.
On 22 May, MEPs debated this situation, with many calling for the EU to support the Palestinian National Unity Government as they claim it had met the conditions set by the international community - namely renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel and recognition of international, accords concluded by the PLO.
Israeli-Palestine - a solution in sight?
Speaking to the Israeli Knesset on 30 May, Parliament's President Hans-Gert Pöttering said, "The European Parliament is convinced that a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders is and remains the only way to a satisfactory solution. The principle of ‘land for peace’ represents the fairest, most just approach if we are to achieve a balanced and lasting result".
A two-state solution would envisage Israel returning to its 1967 borders alongside a viable Palestinian state. This "land for peace" trade was first tried in the 1979 Camp David accords when Israel withdrew from the Sinai peninsula in return for a peace treaty with Egypt.
It is almost 40 years since the "six day war" when Israel captured the Sinai, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan heights from its neighbours.
Resolution to end the conflict
In the last four years the European Parliament has adopted 3 resolutions on the situation in the Middle East. Last year the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, addressed the Parliament as did Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Earlier this year this delegation of MEPs visited the Palestinian Territories. On their return they called for the embargo on financial assistance to be lifted.