European heads of state on Friday chose to call for a "full and speedy" implementation of the stalled road map peace plan rather than proposing a new initiative to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as some had wanted.
Much attention had been paid prior to the two-day summit end-of-year EU summit in Brussels to a five-point peace plan issued by Italy, Spain and France in November. The leaders of those three countries had hoped to gain endorsement for their proposal at the summit.
When the final Middle East statement was released on Friday, there was no mention of such a proposal or of any new European peace plan.
The EU did, however, call on the Quartet to convene an international conference on the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab countries.
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi told reporters it was important to emphasize that the summit's statement included most of the main principles in the Spanish-French-Italian plan, such as a cease-fire and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
French President Jacques Chirac said, "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not only at the root of intolerable violence, but is fuelling a feeling of injustice throughout the Muslim world. A political way forward must be opened up and the momentum for peace recreated."
European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told The Jerusalem Post that "Europe has an important role to play in contributing to a solution to this crisis" within the framework of the road map.
The EU on Friday approved a three-month extension of its mechanism for providing aid to Palestinians while bypassing the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority government.
It also called on Israel to release the Palestinian tax and tariff revenues, estimated at about $50 million a month, which it has been withholding since Hamas won legislative elections in January.
The EU leaders also called for speedy implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access for the Palestinians; full implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings; and resumption of security cooperation between Israel and the PA.
The leaders called for an end to settlement construction and to work on the security barrier in areas where it enters the West Bank.
"The EU will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those agreed by both parties," the heads of state said in their statement. They also demanded that Israel to release PA ministers and legislators from Hamas that it has detained.
Speaking with reporters after the meeting, the EU Foreign Policy
chief Javier Solana called for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as soon as possible.
EU leaders invited the Quartet "to build on the outcome of successful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in order to reach a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict, including peace agreements with Syria and Lebanon."
In the interim, they urged both Palestinians and Israelis to hold onto the cease-fire. "Violations of the cease-fire must end and it should be extended to the West Bank," they said.
The leaders also asked Hamas to release Cpl. Gilad Shalit, recognize Israel, renounce terror and abide by past diplomatic agreements.
The EU leaders commended Abbas for working to form a Hamas-Fatah government that would abide by these three principles. If he succeeds in that effort, the EU leaders pledged to provide that new government with financial and infrastructure assistance.
The EU leaders called on Syria to stop inferring in Lebanese affairs and to work instead to stabilize that country.
Chirac told reporters on Friday that the 25 EU nations were united in support for "the democratic institutions in Lebanon and, as a result, in support of the democratically elected government" of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora.
He said France would host an international donor conference for Lebanese reconstruction on January 25.
The EU statement also called for Israel to turn the Shaba Farms over to the UN and to halt surveillance flights over Lebanon.
It also called for Hizbullah to release the two IDF reservists it kidnapped this summer and for compliance with the arms embargo on the Islamist organization.
The EU slammed the conference held in Teheran this week denying the holocaust.
"The EU condemns any denial of the Holocaust as a historical fact, either in whole or in part, and therefore firmly rejects the underlying premise and the objectives of the conference on the Holocaust organized by the Iranian authorities. EU leaders warned that Iran was destabilizing the region.
AP contributed to this report.
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