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Press Release
Statement to the press by Jean Asselborn during his visit to Israel on 19 January 2005

Date of release : 19-01-2005

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Event : Visit of Jean Asselborn to the Middle East on 19 and 20 January

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 on 19 January 2005 Israeli President Moshe Katzav, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Minister for Foreign Affairs Sylvan Shalom. Following these meetings, Jean Asselborn made the following statement during a press conference at the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs:

"I am delighted to be here in Israel today. This is my first trip abroad as President in Office of the Council of the European Union and I was determined to come here at the beginning of the Luxembourg Presidency to emphasize again to the Israeli authorities the immense importance that the EU attaches to its relationship with Israel and to finding a just and durable solution in the Middle East.

The European Union sees Israel as an important friend and partner. Our relationship has a solid basis. We are united by historical and cultural links. The European Union is Israel 's leading commercial partner. Last December, we entered a new stage in our relationship with the adoption of an EU-Israel plan of action as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy. This plan of action, based on the partnership agreement that came into force in 2000, aims to make our political, security, economic, scientific and cultural links even stronger. I am convinced that, on this basis, in the months and years to come we will move even closer together.

The peace process has, of course, been central to our discussions in the context of this bilateral relationship. I have assured Minister Shalom of the full support of the European Union and its Member States in seeking a just and durable negotiated solution to a conflict that has been going on for too long.

I will be perfectly clear: the European Union condemns terrorism without hesitation. There is no justification for terrorist acts and we must put an end to them. Nobody should have to live under the threat of attacks from Qassam rockets.

We are aware of the very clear statements of the President of the Palestinian Authority on this issue and we are counting on him to take firm action.

Despite the recent terrorist attacks, we think, however, that it is important for the parties to seize the opportunity to restart the peace process. We must not allow these terrorist acts to sabotage the legitimate desire of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples for peace.

The European Union will continue to support all those who aspire to security and peace.

We will continue to work as part of the Quartet, and within the framework of the "road map", to ensure that Israel can bank on a secure and prosperous future, living in peace and cooperation with its neighbours. European integration shows that reconciliation and the construction of a shared future are possible after generations of war and suffering.

The position of the European Union as regards the plan to withdraw from Gaza is quite clear: it is an opportunity that must be seized by all parties. And here I am delighted by the support that the Plan has received from the majority of Israelis.

Disengagement must succeed and that is why we have emphasised how important it is that disengagement takes due account of certain criteria: withdrawal must be complete, which, in particular, means that it must occur as part of the "road map"; it must be negotiated in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority and take a step towards the vision of the two States living side by side in peace and security; above all, it must not be accompanied by the transfer of settlers to the West Bank and Israel must facilitate the economic rehabilitation of Gaza. I would like to pay tribute to the Israeli government for the efforts that it has already made in this direction and I have every confidence that it will continue to have the determination to carry out this important task.

The European Union cannot, and does not want to, stand aside from the issues that directly affect the stability of the regions neighbouring on the enlarged Europe. You may count on the continuing support of the European Union."

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This page was last modified on : 22-01-2005

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