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European Union (EU)
16 May 2007
The EU should deal with the "entire national unity government" says Palestinian Foreign Minister
- 16-05-2007 - 09:05
"We want constructive engagement from the EU," said Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr to MEPs in the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The national unity government had fulfilled all the requirements demanded by the Quartet, and had lent full support to the Arab peace initiative, he said. It now urgently needed to address its financial difficulties.
"Our programme doesn't reflect the goals of any Palestinian faction," and constitutes a truly national government, the Minister said. Véronique De Keyser (PES, BE) echoed the sentiment, saying that the EU should recognise the entire national unity government, not just some of its members. Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL, CY), Chair of the EP's delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, which was co-hosting the meeting, added that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas) should also be invited to the EP.
On the subject of the principles that the international Quartet (EU, US, UN and Russia) has demanded of any Palestinian government, Mr Abu Amr stated that his government "honours agreements that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has made with Israel, including letters of mutual recognition signed by the two sides, and the Oslo agreement, which talks of renouncing violence." While admitting that the government's commitment was not very explicit, he urged MEPs to hold the "entire national unity government accountable, not just its parts."
Caroline Lucas (Greens/EFA, UK) noted that a recent EP delegation to the Palestinian territories unanimously returned from its trip saying that the current government fulfilled the Quartet requirements. Chris Davies (ALDE, UK) asked whether the Minister had received any indication from the Council on what concrete steps the EU still required from his government. Mr. Abu Amr replied that "no specific demands were transmitted" to him.
The minister also pleaded with MEPs to restore normal relations with his government to be able to "lift the political and financial siege" that has been imposed on the Palestinians, and to pressure Israel into returning withheld tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority. Geoffrey Van Orden (EPP-ED, UK) noted that Palestine had received more money this year than in 2006, even with the halt of direct payments to the Palestinian government.
The Minister replied that although this is true, it only helped alleviate the humanitarian disaster, "but it hasn't gone to empower and help our institutions, which have become dysfunctional." He argued that a viable Palestinian state needed to be able to administer its own funds, and called for Israel to stop its policy of "collective punishment" by which it refused to transfer Palestinian tax revenues to the government.
The Arab peace initiative
Some Members asked about the national unity government's stance on the Arab peace initiative, which would exchange Arab recognition of Israel and normalisation of relations for an Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders. Mr Abu Amr expressed his support for the plan, but noted that "the API has no chance of success if the political and financial siege continues to be imposed on Palestine." He warned that further deterioration in the political and security situation of the Palestinian territories could only result in mounting tensions and violence, which would benefit no one in the region. Luisa Morgantini (GUE/NGL, IT) added that any discussion of the peace process needed to include talk of the policies of Israel, as well: "checkpoint closures, incursions, and 40 years of occupation."
Finally, Sir Robert Atkins (EPP-ED, UK) asked whether Alan Johnston (the BBC journalist kidnapped in Gaza in March this year) was still alive. Mr Abu Amr replied that "our understanding is that Alan Johnston is alive and we have hope that he will be returned safely. This is a matter of patience, and avoiding any unnecessary risks, as our primary concern is his well-being."