EU: Israel has right to proportional self-defense

EU's 27 foreign ministers call for immediate end to Gaza violence, demand both side respect int'l humanitarian law.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Kimmo Mantyla/Lehtikuva)
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.
They issued a strongly worded statement calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, following the monthly meeting in Brussels of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.
The ministers stopped short, however, of condemning Hamas in Gaza or holding it culpable for the newest round of violence with Israel.
“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 continued.
“Israel has the right to protect itself from these kind of attacks.
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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.
They added 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 solution.
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 this month.
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 said.
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 retaliatory steps.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also weighed in on Gaza, even though his organization does not have a role in the Middle East peace process.
He added that he does not see a role for NATO in the process.
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 said.
“But the international community would expect Israel to show restraint.”