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Louis Michel to visit the Middle East to assess the humanitarian situation


Brussels, 24 April 2007. Louis Michel, the EU's Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, will visit the Middle East from April 25-29 taking in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Syria. He will assess, at first hand, the humanitarian situation in the region which hosts one of the biggest refugee and displaced population in the world. He will notably visit camps of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. He will also have discussions with the Commission's implementing partners in the provision of relief assistance. He will also meet leading politicians in the region and deliver a speech on the humanitarian dimension of the Middle-East Peace Process at a conference on humanitarian issues.

Louis Michel will visit humanitarian projects funded by the Commission and will take stock of the situation with the various partners on the ground.

The first part of the visit will be dedicated to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The Commissioner will visit humanitarian projects in the West Bank and meet victims of the conflict. He will also meet Mr Azzam Al-Ahmad, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, and Mrs Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs to explore ways of making progress on addressing humanitarian issues.

He will also participate in a conference in Jerusalem on international humanitarian law that will bring together the main humanitarian donors and actors in the region.

Mr Michel will then travel to Jordan and Syria where he will visit Commission-funded humanitarian projects, including Palestinian refugee camps and areas accommodating Iraqis who have fled from the violence in their own country. It is estimated that around 3.8 million Iraqi citizens have left their country or are internally displaced because of the violence. This represents the biggest movement of population in the region since World War II. In Syria, Commissioner Michel will meet with President Bashar Al-Assad.

The European Union is the world's leading donor to the Middle East. The EU's solidarity with the victims of the Palestinian and Iraq crises is revealed in the scale of its aid. Since 2000, the European Commission alone has provided more than €333 million in humanitarian aid for the Palestinians, on top of its Development assistance. It has also recently allocated €10.2 million of relief aid for victims of the Iraq crisis.

The Commission's relief assistance, channelled through ECHO, its Humanitarian Aid department, has enabled partner agencies (NGO, UN and Red Cross/Crescent) to implement more than 500 projects in the region. The priorities are food, health, water/sanitation, job creation and protection.

For more information, see: http://ec.europa.eu/echo/field/gaza/index_en.htm