The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2005URL (Internet address) : http://www.eu2005.lu/en/actualites/communiques/2005/01/20ja-po-il/
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Statement to the press by Jean Asselborn during his visit to the Palestinian Territories on 20 January 2005
As part of his visit to the Middle East, Jean Asselborn, President of the Council of the European Union and Luxembourg Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Foreign Minister Nabil Chaath on 20 January 2005 in Gaza. Jean Asselborn has invited President Abbas to the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 21 February in Brussels. At a press conference following his meetings in Gaza, Jean Asselborn made the following statement:
"We had a very fruitful meeting where we discussed a wide range of issue, namely relations with the EU and the Peace Process.
I first wish to congratulate the Palestinian people on the successful conduct of the presidential elections which represent a first important step in the consolidation of democratisation and institution building. The electoral process and the elections were held under difficult circumstances, but the way they were handled has impressed us and showed political maturity.
It is important that the newly elected President of the Palestinian Authority is a partner for peace. We understand the difficulties the Palestinians but violent means and terror will never be acceptable and will lead to an impasse. A democratic State can only be built by peaceful means and through negotiations. Palestinians must chose once and for all and fully renounce violence and whole-heartedly pursue the political path: it is impossible to have it both ways.
Security for Palestinians and Israelis remains therefore the key to progress. This point has also been made very clearly in all the meetings I had yesterday, be it with the Israeli President, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Bringing security is the most immediate priority. Suicide bombings have to stop; rocket attacks must stop.
I therefore welcome wholeheartedly the decisions taken by President Abbas to deploy Palestinian security forces in the border area so as to act firmly. Extremists should not be given the right of veto in the peace process. Extremists should not be given the right of veto in the peace process.
Only a domestically strong Palestinian Authority can deliver security and peace. This is why the successful continuation of the reform process is of utmost importance.
The EU stands ready to assist you, lending political, financial and technical support. We will continue to do so. The overall balance of our objectives and composition of the EU’s financial assistance package of approximately € 200-300 million per year has been institution-building and development assistance, whilst addressing emergency and humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population.
The relationship between the EU and the Palestinians has an even greater potential and should be further developed, notably in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. It contains both political and economic measures which can help support the peace process.
The EU has allocated approximately € 250 million in 2004 and will provide a similar amount in 2005 – including a contribution to the World- Bank Trust Fund and UNRWA (with additional € 20 million for Gaza).
We also need to work with both sides on creating the conditions to make the Gaza disengagement plan a success. It is imperative that the leaderships on both sides soon start talking on all aspects regarding disengagement, particularly on an orderly hand-over of control. We are working closely with the World Bank to set out concrete recommendations for both parties to ensure economic revival in the context of disengagement.
With the discussions we had this morning I am confident that the path to peace can finally be resumed. Rest assured that the European Union and its Member States will continue to support those working for peace and security".