EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton 390 (R).
(photo credit:REUTERS/Kimmo Mantyla/Lehtikuva)
Foreign ministers from all 27 European Union nations agreed Monday that Israel
has a right to defend itself, but must do so proportionally.
a strongly worded statement calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas,
following the monthly meeting in Brussels of the EU Foreign Affairs
The ministers stopped short, however, of condemning Hamas in
Gaza or holding it culpable for the newest round of violence
“The European Union strongly condemns the rocket attacks on
Israel from the Gaza Strip, which Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza must
cease immediately,” the foreign ministers said.
“There can be no
justification for the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians,” it
“Israel has the right to protect itself from these kind of
But it added a warning: Israel “must act proportionately and
ensure the protection of civilians at all times.”
The ministers called on
both Israel and Hamas to fully respect international humanitarian law, and said
they regretted the loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel.
that they supported the mediation efforts of Egypt and UN Secretary- General Ban
Ki Moon, and said that the situation underscores the need for a two-state
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued an even
stronger statement last week in which she condemned Hamas and held it culpable
for sparking the latest round of violence when it attacked an IDF jeep earlier
Speaking to the media in Brussels before the meeting, Swedish
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt linked the Gaza violence to the frozen peace process
between Fatah in the West Bank and Israel.
“It is increasingly urgent to
get a peace process worthy of the name going,” he said.
“Otherwise we are
facing one crisis after the other over the years to come and it will get
increasingly worse,” Bildt said.
If the hostilities between Hamas and
Israel are halted, and all that happens, is that “you stop and count the dead
bodies, than you are just preparing for the next round of fighting,” Bildt
He noted that the EU had no power here and could only urge
Palestinians in Gaza to stop firing rockets and Israel to stop taking
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also weighed in on
Gaza, even though his organization does not have a role in the Middle East peace
He added that he does not see a role for NATO in the
Still as Rasmussen headed into the council meeting in Brussels,
he said he was concerned by the escalation of violence and regretted the death
and suffering of innocent civilians in Gaza and Israel.
“Israel has the
right to selfdefense and attacks against Israel must end,” Rasmussen
“But the international community would expect Israel to show
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