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20 September 2002
Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the EU on the Middle East

There have been six weeks without Israeli civilian casualties inside Green Line Israel. This period of calm has been shattered by renewed acts of terror. The EU condemns unreservedly the suicide bomb attacks in Umm el-Fahm on 18 September and in Tel Aviv yesterday, in which at least 6 Israelis were killed and many more injured.

This takes place at a time where there has been some hope that resumed contacts between the parties could restart the political process.

We extend our deepest and most sincere condolences to the Israeli Government and the relatives.

Likewise our hearts go out to the Palestinian children and their parents who yesterday suffered a bomb attack in the schoolyard of Zeif Yatta Elementary School in Hebron. Deliberately targeting children in their school is a particularly odious act.

The EU deplores that civilians on both sides continue to suffer of violence: Horrors of terror for ordinary people in the streets of Israel, brutality of occupation for the ordinary people in the Palestinian territories.

The EU recalls the recent statement by the Middle East Quartet from its meeting on 17 September in New York in which the violence and terror of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was deplored and condemned, and in which the expectations of the international community with respect to the return to the path of peace in the conflict were laid out.

The European Union on 10 September welcomed the promise by Fatah that it will prevent any attacks against Israeli civilians and called on other Palestinian groups to do likewise. We strongly repeat that call. The terrorists must not be allowed to derail the aspirations of the many who support peace in the Middle East.

We urge the Palestinians to work with the US and regional partners to reform Palestinian security services in order to fight terror that has so severely undermined the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. The EU reiterates its readiness to assist in the reform process.

The European Union is deeply concerned by the deployment of Israeli tanks in Ramallah and in the north of the Gaza strip. The European Union strongly calls on both sides to show their commitment to peace by acting with maximum restraint. Force cannot defeat force. The siege of the Palestinian Presidency compound is counter productive: Restricting freedom of movement of the Palestinian leadership does not contribute to fighting terror; to Israel's legitimate security concerns; or the necessary process of Palestinian reforms supported by the international community and most recently by the Quartet.

The European Union once again confirms its strong will to stand by those who seek permanent peace and security. We will continue to work relentlessly with the regional parties and within the Middle East Quartet towards that goal.

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