Javier SOLANA, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), had a working breakfast today with Ziad Abu AMR, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority. At their meeting, which followed yesterday's meeting of EU and Arab League foreign ministers, Mr SOLANA and Mr AMR discussed the latest developments in the Palestinian Territories as well as the Arab Peace Initiative. Mr SOLANA stressed the importance of national unity amongst Palestinians and reaffirmed the EU's support to the Palestinian people.
At a joint news briefing after their meeting, Mr SOLANA said he and his long-standing friend Mr Abu AMR had had a very good discussion, following on from the previous day's meeting with Arab League ministers. Today, the focus of the talks was the situation in Palestine and how the European Union could help the Palestinians. "Today, we talked more on the Palestinian situation, how we can help, how we can cooperate on the security situation, how we can cooperate economically", said Mr SOLANA. The talks would continue, he said, as he intended to visit the region in the near future. He stressed the EU's continuing deep engagement with the peace process, with the Palestinian people and with the region and he underlined that the EU would try to keep on working in the time span available - which was not "infinite" - to achieve progress in the peace process. He said: "We would like to see something happening in the foreseeable future and not to have to wait again for a long period of time until some positive news may come on the peace process".
Mr SOLANA said he had pressed the Palestinian leaders very hard to do everything possible to bring the security situation under control and to make every effort to secure the release of the captured Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, and the BBC journalist, Alan Johnston. "I have asked also very clearly to my friend the minister that security must be enforced and has to be guaranteed. I have asked for every effort to be made for the liberation of Shalit and also for the liberation of the journalist Alan Johnston".
Mr AMR thanked Mr SOLANA for his "persistent effort" to convene the Arab League-European ministers' meeting of the previous day, which had been very successful, and he underlined Mr SOLANA's involvement in bringing the Arab and European countries together and his constructive efforts. "I would like to also stress the role of Mr Solana in reviving Arab-European relations and opening new horizons for Arab-European relations", he said. He told journalists that he was pleased with his talks with Mr SOLANA on the Palestinian National Unity Government and on the question of the siege and the efforts to solve the problems related to the transfer of money to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Government.
Asked by a member of the press if they were pessimistic about the security situation in Gaza, if they felt that the international embargo against the Palestinian government was one of the reasons for the deterioration of the situation and whether the situation in Gaza could spell the beginning of the end of the Mecca Agreement, Mr SOLANA said: "It would clearly be very difficult to move forward politically if the situation internally among Palestinians is not guaranteed". The European Union did not feel that the situation could be blamed on the economy because the EU had given more aid to the Palestinian people since 2005 than in previous years. "I don't think you can blame the situation only from the point of view of the economy; as far as we are concerned, we would like to say again, as we have been saying all along, we have been giving more help and aid to the Palestinian people in the years 2007, 2006 and 2005, so we do not feel responsible for that". However, Mr SOLANA acknowledged that living conditions were very difficult for Palestinians and led to much frustration. He also underlined that many people suffered from insecurity, not only the abducted Israeli soldier and the BBC correspondent mentioned earlier: "The authorities in Gaza are responsible for security and must organize their work to ensure that the violence does not increase but decreases", he said.
Mr AMR said that, whilst he was not belittling the gravity of the situation in Gaza, there was no better option than the Palestinian National Unity Government and he was not really worried about its future but something could be done to help the Palestinians solve their problems and end the security chaos in Palestine, particularly in Gaza. "It is important, for example", he said, "for the Israelis to release the money which they hold back. This would alleviate the social, economic and security problems. And we call on the international community to end the political and financial siege on the Palestinian government and the Palestinian people."
Asked what concrete steps the Palestinian government should now take to reduce tensions and restore stability in the Palestinian Territories, Mr SOLANA said it was not for him to give any specific advice on how it should be done but he could say both publicly and privately that the security of the Palestinian people must be guaranteed, to ensure stability and to provide a possibility of moving the peace process forward. If they needed any help the EU would of course be more than happy to provide it.
FOR FURTHER DETAILS:
The Spokesperson of the Secretary General,
High Representative for CFSP
+32 (0)2 281 6467 / 8239 / 5150 / 5151 / +32 (0)2 281 5694