EU statement at UN Human Rights Council on the situation in Gaza

Human Rights Council - 3rd Special Session

EU Statement on 15 November, 2006, by Ambassador Vesa Himanen on Israeli military incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including the recent one in Northern Gaza and the assault on Beit Hanoun

Mr. President,

I am speaking on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

Let me make clear from the outset that the European Union is deeply concerned about the escalating violence in the Middle East. The EU continues also to be deeply concerned about the human rights and the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.

The EU strongly deplores the Israeli military action in Gaza resulting in a growing number of civilian casualties, including women and children, and deplores the unacceptable military operation in Beit Hanoun on 8 November 2006. We are shocked by the large number of civilian deaths and injuries caused by the shelling of Beit Hanoun. We deeply regret the growing number of civilian casualties, many of them children, as well as the destruction of houses and other civilian infrastructure.

While recognising Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence, the EU urges Israel to exercise utmost restraint and underline that action should not be disproportionate or in contradiction to international humanitarian law. We call on Israel to cease its military operations that endanger the Palestinian civilian population in the Palestinian Territory. It is imperative that the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people be urgently alleviated.

The EU also strongly deplores the firing of rockets on Israeli territory. We call on the Palestinian leadership to bring an end to such acts. The deterioration of the situation will only aggravate the already grave circumstances in the region where a return to a comprehensive peace process with a clear political perspective is urgently needed. To achieve this, an immediate cessation of violence is needed. The EU reiterates its call for the immediate release of the abducted Israeli soldier. In addition we repeat our call for immediate release of Palestinian ministers and legislators detained in Israel. The EU reiterates its intention to actively contribute to the work to get the Middle East Peace Process urgently back on track within the Quartet. The aim of the EU contribution is to make progress towards a comprehensive settlement on the basis of the Roadmap, relevant UNSC resolutions and the commitments made at Sharm el-Sheikh in 2005. This should be done in close cooperation with Arab partners.

The EU emphasises the importance of the implementation of the Agreement of Movement and Access of November 2005. We call on Israel to respect previous agreements and to fulfil its obligations under them. Regular operations at Gaza crossings, notably Rafah are of particular importance in this respect.  We call on Israel to do its utmost to ensure that the crossings be opened and remain open.

I would also like to remind us that according to our constituent resolution the Council shall be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity. The EU is willing to cooperate with all Council members in order to adequately address all Human rights situations of concern with a consultative and constructive approach with an aim to arrive at a consensus when possible.

Finally I would like to reiterate the EU's commitment to help the Palestinian people. Our combined assistance in 2006 exceeds 650 million euros. We also call on Israel for the immediate resumption of transfers of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues. The commanding concern in the EU's approach on the situation in the Occupied Territories is that of peace. Without peace there is no hope. This hope is created by the acts of both parties and that is the reason the EU has repeatedly reminded the parties concerned of their obligations urging them to take action while expressing the readiness to support them.

Thank You Mr. President