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15 December 2006
THE EUROPEAN UNION
Brussels, 15 December 2006
DECLARATION ON THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
The European Council noted with concern that the Middle East is faced with one of the worst crises in years. The Israeli-Arab conflict is at the heart of this crisis. The EU is committed to overcoming the current impasse in the peace process and to easing tensions in the broader region.
The ceasefire in Gaza is an important first step. Violations of the ceasefire must end and it should be extended to the West Bank. For the ceasefire to be meaningful and sustainable it must be consolidated through a political process. In this respect the European Council noted Prime Minister Olmert's address of 27 November. The EU welcomed the readiness of President Abbas and PM Olmert to resume dialogue, and urged them to meet soon. The European Council also invited the other members of the Quartet and the regional partners to intensify common efforts aimed at reinvigorating the peace process.
The European Council commended the efforts of President Abbas over the last six months to form a government of national unity. The EU stands ready to work with a legitimate Palestinian government that adopts a platform reflecting the Quartet principles. If such a government is formed, the EU undertakes: to resume partnership with the Palestinian government and encourage Quartet partners to do likewise; to continue, with other donors, providing financial support and to prepare, in cooperation with the new government, a long-term plan on capacity building, border management and unified and effective security forces, as well as a functioning administration.
The European Council called for the immediate release of the abducted Israeli soldier and commended efforts including by partners in the region to that effect. The European Council also called for the immediate release of Palestinian ministers and legislators detained in Israel.
The European Council noted the vital role played by the Temporary International Mechanism in providing essential relief to a large part of the Palestinian population since its launch in June 2006.
The increased assistance provided by the Community Budget and by Member States bilaterally this year, and the contributions by other donors to the Mechanism are deeply valued. In view of the protracted deterioration of the socio-economic situation of the Palestinians, the European Council endorsed a further three-month extension of the mechanism until March 2007. The European Council calls for the release of Palestinian customs and tax revenues withheld by Israel.
The European Council reiterated the need for full and speedy implementation of the Roadmap. As a first step, the following priorities should be pursued, following a calendar agreed between the parties and monitored by the Quartet: full and speedy implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access; full implementation of the Sharm-el Sheikh understandings, including the release of prisoners and resumption of security cooperation between the parties; parallel implementation by the parties of the obligations they have committed to under the first phase of the Roadmap.
These, though important, are only initial steps, and must lead to meaningful negotiations on the final status, the ultimate goal of which is an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the creation of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state, living side-by-side with Israel and its other neighbours in peace and security. In that context the parties have to take concrete and immediate measures to put an end to all acts of violence, and to all activities which are contrary to international law, including settlement activities and the construction of the barrier on Palestinian land, that constitute an obstacle to the achievement of that goal. The EU will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those agreed by both parties.
The European Council invited the Quartet to stand ready to lead an effort by the international community to build on the outcome of successful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in order to reach a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict, including peace agreements with Syria and Lebanon and full normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab countries.
This will require an inclusive approach involving all relevant actors; all need to engage constructively in the region to support these efforts. In accordance with the Roadmap, the Quartet, in consultation with the parties, should in due course convene an international conference to realise these goals.