solana abbas 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
When they meet in Brussels at the end of the week, European Union leaders are expected to declare their support for two Arab leaders - Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora - both of whom are locked in a power struggle against Islamist groups in their governments.
Saniora "is the constitutional leader" who can best represent an independent and united Lebanon, said Christina Gallach, the spokeswoman for the EU's Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana.
In speaking with Middle East journalists in Brussels on Tuesday, she said the EU leaders are also expected to endorse Abbas in his efforts to form a new government that would stop terror and recognize Israel.
They will also speak in favor of a meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas, as well as express their support of the "fragile" cease-fire, which has been in place between the Israelis and Palestinians for the last few weeks.
While the EU leaders are expected to issue an overall statement about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, said Gallach, she clarified that their push for peace was within the context of the Road Map.
Europe is not looking to replace the Road Map, said Gallach when asked whether the leaders were likely to come up with a new peace plan.
"It will have to be altered, but it is the way ahead. The ingredients of the Road Map are the logical ingredients of the peace process.
"When people say we have to change the Road Map, I do not think they challenge the basic elements: security, territory, the capital, and refugees," said Gallach.
Speaking of the EU's decision on Monday to extend its system of providing financial aid to the Palestinian people in a manner that bypasses the Hamas-led government, she said that such assistance was necessary from a humanitarian perspective to give the Palestinians access to basic necessities.
Gallach added that Israel could similarly assist suffering Palestinians. She said that Israel should release the tax funds it has withheld from the Palestinian Authority since Hamas was elected to the government last year.
A Foreign Ministry source told The Jerusalem Post that Israel would do so only once Hamas stops its support of terrorist activity. The source said that the money, some $50 million a month, was being held in escrow for the Palestinians until such time as it is safe to return it to them.
But Gallach said that releasing the taxes could do more to assist the Palestinian people than the international aid that have been handed out to them so far. Since the start of the year, the European Union has provided some $863 million in aid for Palestinians.
Gallach also discussed the EU's position on Iran's nuclear program.
While the EU does not want Iran to have the ability to produce nuclear weapons, it does believe that Iran can produce uranium for civilian use as long as such a program was done with transparency, she said.
AP contributed to this report.
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