Solana: EU ready to return to Rafah

Livni prepares to meet EU counterparts, hopes to clinch deal for help with stopping arms smuggling.

Javier Solana 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Javier Solana 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel and the EU are debating the way forward after the Gaza war, with the Europeans pushing for a lasting cease-fire and smooth access for humanitarian aid and Israel asking for European help to stop arms smuggling into the Strip. As Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni prepared to meet her EU counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday, European officials said it was crucial for the cease-fire to hold and for Israel to allow aid into Gaza in significant and sustained amounts. "The situation is fragile," Javier Solana, the EU's foreign and security chief, told reporters ahead of the meeting. "It is very important that the (Gaza) border crossings are opened." He said the EU was ready to send monitors back to the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. That mission began in 2005 and oversaw the crossing of 444,000 people during an 18-month period. It was suspended in June 2007 after Hamas seized control of Gaza. Solana said the EU was ready to return to Rafah and other border points provided the cease-fire is maintained. Next Sunday, the EU will meet in Brussels with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority. "We have to really get to work with Egypt" on the Rafah crossing, said Solana. Egypt has largely kept the crossing closed since Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007. Livni headed to Brussels hoping to clinch a deal committing the EU to contribute forces, ships and technology to anti-smuggling operations, Jerusalem officials said. EU officials said it was too early for that, saying providing humanitarian relief and efforts to secure a lasting cease-fire were their priorities.