A coalition of major humanitarian, human rights and development organizations called on the European Union today [7 January 2009] to immediately suspend any further enhancement of its relations with Israel, known as an “upgrade,” until it agrees to a comprehensive ceasefire and provides unimpeded humanitarian access. Both Israel’s offensive in Gaza and Hamas rocket attacks into Israel have caused unacceptable civilian casualties.
The call comes ahead of the informal meeting of EU ministers in Prague this Thursday. It follows Israel’s rejection of European attempts to secure an immediate ceasefire during a visit of the EU’s most senior representatives to the region on Monday 5 January.
“Israel has shunned diplomatic efforts by the EU and the delegation has returned empty-handed. The EU’s credibility is now at stake. It is inconceivable that we should extend further benefits of European partnership to a government that violates international humanitarian law and refuses negotiation in favor of continued violence. It is time for robust EU action to bring about an immediate ceasefire and end the violence on all sides,” said Daleep Mukarji, Director of Christian Aid UK and Ireland.
The coalition of organizations from over 10 European countries — including Oxfam International, World Vision and Muslim Aid — warns that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, already dire following the 18-month blockade, has been pushed to crisis point by the current military conflict.
More than a million Gazans face extreme shortages of electricity and water, and thousands of people have fled their homes. Food stocks are running short. Hospitals are struggling to function without electricity, relying on generators, and are unable to provide adequate care to the high number of casualties. Sewage is flooding into the streets of Beit Hanoun as the waste water pumping stations are shutting down due to lack of electricity.
“This is not the time to be awarding benefits to a party to the conflict. The civilian casualties and destruction of homes, schools and basic infrastructure in Gaza are shocking and increasing every day. The EU cannot proceed with upgrading our relations with Israel while such violations are talking place,” said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.
The coalition calls on the EU to uphold fundamental European principles by:
- Suspending the EU-Israel upgrade process until a full, complete and permanent ceasefire has been agreed by all parties and Israel provides unimpeded humanitarian access;
- Making publicly clear that partnership with the EU should be linked to respect for human rights and international law;
- Securing action in the United Nations Security Council to adopt a binding resolution that demands an immediate ceasefire, and includes effective monitoring to ensure adherence to it by both sides.
“The EU agrees that an immediate ceasefire and an opening of Gaza crossings is our only hope for alleviating the desperate situation in Gaza and providing security for people on both sides. The EU must now apply real pressure to convince Israeli and Hamas leaders to accept this and redouble its efforts to achieve sustainable peace in the region,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International.
The coalition of organizations include: Avaaz, Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), CAFOD (UK), CCFD (France), Christian Aid (UK and Republic of Ireland), Danish Church Aid (Denmark), Diakonia (Sweden), Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (Denmark), FIDH (France),Â medico international (Germany and Switzerland), Muslim Aid (UK), Oxfam International, Rehabilitation and Research Center for Torture Victims (Denmark), TrÃ³caire (Ireland), United Civilians for Peace (Netherlands), World Vision (UK).