1. The EU welcomes this fourth meeting of the Association Council with Israel. The Association Agreement offers the framework for strengthening bilateral ties and the EU is committed to continuously deploying efforts to this effect. This session follows the last meeting of the Association Committee on 9 July 2003 in Brussels, which enabled us to make good progress in several areas of co-operation.
2. The Association Agreement provides us also with an institutionalised framework to conduct a regular political dialogue at various levels on all issues of common interest, the aim of which is to develop better mutual understanding, increasing convergence of positions on international issues, opening the way to new forms of co-operation with a view to achieving common goals, in particular peace, security and democracy. The EU attaches great importance to conducting and maintaining a regular political dialogue with Israel at all levels. Consequently, the Association Committee at its last meeting devoted time to discussing a number of political issues, among which were the Middle East Peace Process, Iran, Iraq, terrorism, nonproliferation, the Wider Europe initiative and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.
The EU is ready to consider proposals submitted by Israel in the margins of the last Association Committee to deepen and strengthen the dialogue; in this context the ban imposed by Israel on official contacts with EU representatives who meet with the President of the Palestinian Authority is not in line with the spirit of these proposals. The EU stresses the importance of open and unhindered channels of communication for all EU interlocutors, including EU Special Representative, Ambassador Marc Otte. The EU urges the Israeli side to reconsider its position in view of the negative impact it might have for the future dialogue.
4. The EU is firmly committed to the clear objective of two States, Israel and a viable and democratic Palestinian State, living side by side in peace and security, in the framework of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, as laid out in the Road Map.
The EU is deeply concerned by the situation in the region and has noted that, despite support given by the international community to the quest for a just and lasting solution, insufficient effort has been made by the concerned parties to seize the opportunity for peace set out in the Road Map, underscored by the recent Quartet Ministerial Statement issued September 26 last. On the contrary, rising violence is bringing added suffering and death to both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples and putting at risk security in the region and beyond.
The EU therefore calls on both parties ï¿½ Israel and the Palestinian Authority ï¿½ to live up to the commitments they undertook at the Aqaba summit on 4 June 2003. A settlement can be achieved through negotiation, and only through negotiation. The objective is an end to the occupation and the early establishment of a democratic, viable, peaceful and sovereign State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders, if necessary with minor adjustments agreed by the parties. The end result should be two states living side by side within secure and recognised borders enjoying normal relations with their neighbours.
The EU urges all sides in the region to immediately implement policies conducive to dialogue and negotiations. The EU relationship with those who will take steps to the contrary will be inevitably affected by such behaviour.
The EU strongly condemns the intensification of suicide attacks and other acts of violence that have occurred over the last few weeks and calls upon all sides to refrain from any provocative action which can further escalate the tension.
Terrorist attacks against Israel have no justification whatsoever. The EU reiterates that the fight against terrorism in all its forms remains one of the priorities of the European Union as well as of the entire international Community and that it is the duty of all countries, in particular of those in the region, to actively co-operate in the fight against terrorism and to abstain from all support, direct or indirect, to terrorist organisations.
The EU emphasises once again that the Palestinian Authority must concretely demonstrate its determination in the fight against extremist violence and urges the PA and its President to take immediate, decisive steps to consolidate all Palestinian security services under the clear control of a duly empowered Prime Minister and Interior Minister, and confront individuals and groups conducting and planning terrorist attacks.
The EU recognises Israel’s right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks. It urges the Government of Israel, in exercising this right, to exert maximum effort to avoid civilian casualties and take no action that aggravates the humanitarian and economic plight of the Palestinian people. It also calls on Israel to abstain from any punitive measures which are not in accordance with international law, including extra-judicial killings and destruction of houses.
The EU reiterates that actions to remove the elected President of the Palestinian Authority would be contrary to international law and counterproductive to the efforts at reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Decisive steps must be taken to reverse the sharply deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza which is making life increasingly intolerable for ordinary Palestinians and fuelling extremism and support to fundamentalist groups to the detriment of popular support to the Palestinian Government. The EU, which is one of the largest donors to the Palestinian Authority, is providing assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, as well as to support structural reforms in view of a future Palestinian State. This assistance is becoming increasingly difficult and costly for the EU to provide. The EU calls on the Government of Israel to facilitate the reform of the Palestinian Authority and increase efforts to ease the plight of the Palestinian people by taking on more responsibility from the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population. In the meantime, it is necessary that humanitarian access and security of humanitarian personnel and their installations be guaranteed. Full safe and unfettered access of humanitarian personnel to the Palestinian territories is crucial. We attach importance to the work carried out by UNRWA, other agencies and NGOs in order to improve living conditions and alleviate human suffering.
The EU is particularly concerned by the route marked out for the so-called security fence in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The envisaged departure of the route from the “green line” could prejudge future negotiations and make the two-State solution physically impossible to implement. It would cause further humanitarian and economic hardship to the Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians west of the fence are being cut off from essential services in the West Bank, Palestinians east of the fence will lose access to land and water resources. In this context the EU is alarmed by the designation of land between the fence and the “green line” as a closed military zone. This is a de-facto change in the legal status of Palestinians living in this area which makes life for them even harder. Hence, the EU calls on Israel to stop and reverse the construction of the so-called security fence inside the occupied Palestinian territories, including in and around East Jerusalem, which is in departure of the armistice line of 1949 and is in contradiction to the relevant provisions of international law.
Also, the continued expansion of settlements and related construction, such as the tenders for several hundred new units issued in October, inflames an already volatile situation and is inconsistent with the Road Map. It is an obstacle to peace. The EU urges the Government of Israel to reverse its settlement policy and activity and end land confiscations. As a first step the EU calls on the Government of Israel to apply immediately a full and effective freeze on all settlement activities and to dismantle all settlement outposts established since March 2001.
The EU reaffirms once again that there is no alternative to a swift and full implementation, in good faith by the two sides, of the Road Map. The EU reiterates the determination of the European Union to contribute to all aspects of the implementation of the Road Map, including to a credible and effective third-party monitoring mechanism as laid out in the Road Map, which should be urgently set up.
The EU welcomes initiatives from civil society on both sides and is ready to further assist in the effort to promote rapprochement, confidence building and the search for a lasting peace.
The EU recalls that a comprehensive peace in the Middle East will also have to include Syria and Lebanon.
The European Union remains ready to explore ways to develop a wider cooperation with Iran. This can only be achieved through increased international confidence on the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme and improvements in the areas of human rights, fight against terrorism and Iran’s position on the Middle East Peace Process.
18. As for the implementation of the energy co-operation agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the EU stresses the importance of the agreements on energy and electricity to be concluded by the two parties, in particular those on common interest projects such as: the construction of a joint combined cycle power station, electricity interconnection between Gaza and Netivot and the setting up of a joint office to monitor Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in the field of energy. The EU notes the willingness of both parties to co-operate on bringing natural gas to their markets as soon as possible, while giving priority to their own offshore gas resources and calls for co-operation on securing energy supplies to be extended to other parties in the Barcelona Process, where conditions permit.
1. The meeting was chaired by Mr Franco FRATTINI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic and President of the Council. Mr Silvan SHALOM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, led the Israeli Delegation. Mr Javier SOLANA, Secretary General and High Representative for the CFSP, The European Commission was represented by Mr Christopher PATTEN, Member.