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Council conclusions on Middle East peace process - 2675th General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting - Brussels, 18 Jul 2005

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The Council adopted the following conclusions:

"1. The Council recalled the declaration of the European Council of 16-17 June 2005 which stressed the global strategic importance of peace, stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean and the European commitment to the resolution of the Middle East conflict. It recalled its support for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank, in line with the framework outlined in the conclusions of the European Council of March 2004 and as an initial stage towards achieving a fair, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The Council welcomed the briefing by SG/HR Solana on his visit to the region from 10-14 July. It expressed its support for the High Representative's commitment to keep both parties engaged in the peace process and in the implementation of the Roadmap. The Council fully endorsed the support the High Representative offered the parties, as well as his commitment that EU action should be coherent, focused and coordinated with the Quartet and the international community.

2. The Council expressed its grave concern at the recent escalation in violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories. The Council condemned unreservedly the recent terrorist attacks on Israel that have resulted in a number of Israeli fatalities and injuries. The Council also condemned violence by Palestinian militants against Palestinian security personnel. While having repeatedly condemned terrorist atrocities against Israelis and recognising Israel's right to protect its citizens against terrorist attacks, the European Union has consistently opposed extra-judicial killings which are contrary to international law. The Council emphasised that Palestinians and Israelis must not return to the cycle of violence that has been characteristic of recent years. It urged Israel to exercise maximum self-restraint and the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and effective action against those involved in attacks.

3. The Council commended the political courage shown by the leaders of the two sides with regard to the withdrawal from Gaza and certain parts of the northern West Bank. The Council stressed the importance of a successful disengagement and noted that only one month remains until it is scheduled to start. The Council reaffirmed the need for both parties to the conflict to make every effort to take advantage of the opportunity presented by disengagement. The Council urged Israel to ensure withdrawal was complete and coordinated with the Palestinians and the international community. The Council called for intensified co-ordination between Israel and the Palestinians, which is central to achieving tangible results, especially with regard to the crucial issues of access to and from the Gaza Strip.

4. The Council reiterated its full support for the Quartet and its Special Envoy for disengagement, James Wolfensohn. The Council confirmed its support for his mission and the Union's determination to work in close co-operation with him to ensure the success of disengagement. It urged the international community, including Arab states, to do likewise. The Council emphasised the urgent need for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to cooperate effectively with each other and with Mr Wolfensohn to support Palestinian institutional and economic development. It urged the Palestinian Authority to accelerate reforms and Israel to put in place the conditions essential to viable Palestinian economic growth. The Council noted Mr Wolfensohn's intention to present further details on his work to the Quartet in the autumn, as well as the ongoing role played by the Commission in leading donor activity on Palestinian governance issues.

5. The Council noted the ongoing contacts between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including the meeting between Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 21 June in Jerusalem. The Council stressed the need for such contacts to improve in both substance and frequency and to take place at all levels. It called on both sides to renew their efforts to implement the commitments made in Sharm el Sheikh. The Council also urged both sides to avoid any action likely to undermine mutual confidence. The Council reaffirmed its position that no party should take unilateral measures which might prejudice the outcome of negotiations on the final settlement. In this context, the Council expressed its concern about the recent Israeli cabinet decision to immediately complete the separation barrier in and around East Jerusalem.

6. The Council urged the Palestinian Authority to step up its efforts to ensure a secure environment in which its citizens' own needs for law and order are met. The Council reiterated its commitment to contributing to the development of Palestinian security capacity through the Palestinian Civil Police, in co-ordination with US Security Coordinator General Ward. The Council also agreed in principle that EU support to the Palestinian Civil Police should take the form of an ESDP mission building on the work of the EU Co-ordination Office for Palestinian Policing Support in cooperation with all the parties concerned.

7. The Council recalled that the EU will not recognise any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties. The Council reaffirmed its view that the way to achieve a permanent peace is a viable two-state solution achieved through the full implementation by both parties of their commitments under the Roadmap."