EU security teams to region taking shape

Irish and Italian police commanders will head 50-man team sent to monitor Rafah crossing.

rafah 88 (photo credit: )
rafah 88
(photo credit: )
An Italian police commander with experience in Albania and Hebron and an Irish police superintendent with experience in Ulster and London will head EU security-related teams dispatched to the Palestinian Authority, the EU announced Wednesday. EU special Middle East envoy Marc Otte told the Associated Press that Italian police Gen. Pietro Pistolese will head the 50-man EU team that will monitor the Rafah border crossing. Pistolese previously headed a European mission to Albania and also served as a TIPH observer in Hebron. Otte said that the team will be comprised of monitors from Italy, Germany and Great Britain, and that the goal was to have the crossing point open - at least on a partial basis - by November 25. An EU technical team has been in the area for a week assessing the team's logistical needs, but Otte said it had still not been determined whether the monitor force will be armed. Otte met Wednesday morning with Minister Haim Ramon and senior officials in the office of Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and a Palestinian delegation led by Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat, to reach an agreement in principle outlining the mechanism for the deployment of what will be known as "EU Border Assistance Mission (EU-BAM) at the Rafah Crossing Point on the Gaza-Egypt border." Peres, who met Wednesday with visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, said EU-BAM "constitutes an entrance of the EU into the Middle East in a more political sense than ever before." In a related development, EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana announced that Jonathan McIvor will head the EU Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories, code-named EUPOL COPPS. EUPOL COPPS was established by a decision of the EU last week, with a mandate to help the PA "take responsibility for law and order" and improve its civil and law enforcement capacity. The team will be made up of 33 unarmed security experts, and they are set to begin operations on January 1. According to a statement issued by Solana, the mission will "have a long-term reform focus" and "will provide enhanced support to the Palestinian Authority in establishing sustainable and effective policing arrangements. McIvor, who currently serves as Otte's police advisor, headed a smaller Palestinian police support unit that has been in operation since April, and upon which EUPOL COPPS was built.