|European Parliament plenary session|
Strasbourg, 5 April 2006
The EU is once more faced with a period of profound and rapid change in the Middle East. How we react and how the parties position themselves will have a determining influence on the prospects for moving towards a peaceful resolution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
The EU has congratulated acting PM Olmert on Kadima’s election victory. This undoubtedly represents a profound shift in Israeli politics and we wait with interest the outcome of the coalition negotiations currently taking place.
Let me underline that the EU stands ready to work with the next Israeli Government to promote security and peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike. I am convinced that both sides profoundly desire a peaceful and sustainable solution to the conflict.
As for the EU’s bilateral relationship with Israel, our sincere wish is to reinforce the strong, balanced, relationship between us reflected in our Association Agreement and ENP Action Plan. We want to continue the progress that has been made in implementing the Action Plan in areas such as human rights and the protection of minorities, research and development, and economic integration.
There has been much speculation about the impact these elections will have on the prospects for peace. One might be tempted to believe that the election result broadly endorsed acting PM Olmert’s avowed intention to proceed with the establishment of permanent borders for Israel by 2010, following further disengagement from the occupied West Bank.
The question for us is how that will be done. We strongly believe that Israel's legitimate security concerns cannot be met through unilateral action or decisions imposed by force: only a negotiated settlement will be sustainable.
The EU would only support changes to the pre-1967 borders agreed by consensus between the Parties: we support a two-State solution leading to a final and comprehensive settlement of the conflict, with Israel and a Palestinian State living side-by-side within secure and mutually recognised borders.
We should underline to our Israeli partners the importance of refraining from actions that may prejudice final status negotiations.
The Commission expects the next Israeli government to reaffirm its commitment to a negotiated solution via full implementation of the Quartet Roadmap, and to show this in deed as well as word.
But, as ever, there is work for both sides. Just as we must be clear with the new Israeli government we must be firm with the new PA Government.
There can be no compromise on the Quartet principles. We expect the new Palestinian government - sworn in last week - to commit to the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap, which bind the Palestinian Authority to the fundamental principles of peace and democracy, respect for the rule of law and human rights.
We are fully aware of the considerable economic and humanitarian needs of the Palestinians, and of the need to break the vicious cycle of poverty and extremism. That’s why the Commission has mobilised over €120m to help meet their basic needs and stabilise the finances of the caretaker government that has just left office. And that’s why we intend to continue to provide emergency and humanitarian assistance.
But unless the new government complies with the Quartet conditions for continued engagement, there can be no ‘business as usual’.
Unless circumstances change, there will inevitably be an impact on assistance to the Palestinian government, which the Commission is now reviewing in line with the Quartet statement of 30 March.
The onus is on the Palestinian side. And on the new Israeli government to act responsibly in fulfilling its obligations to its people.
I firmly believe that both sides are tired of conflict and desperate for peace. But it is up to their leaders to show responsibility and statesmanship as we move forward. It is in their hands, and only theirs, to put an end to the violence and despair which has blighted the lives of too many generations.