EU foreign ministers to discuss Palestine-Israel conflict

EU has been calling for restraint and condemned attacks that hit civilians

FILE PHOTO: A large European Union flag lies at the centre of Schuman square, outside the European Commission headquarters, on the eve of Europe Day, commemorating the declaration made by Robert Schuman in 1950, in Brussels, Belgium, May 8, 2021.  REUTERS/Yves Herman//File Photo
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EU foreign ministers are set to meet on Tuesday to discuss an end to the violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants.

Since the outbreak of violence last week, the EU has been calling for restraint and condemned attacks that hit civilians.

It said the destruction of a building housing the US wire service AP and other major international media at the weekend was “extremely worrying”, and that safe working conditions for journalists were essential.

Member states have been releasing statements about their own positions on the latest events in Israel and Gaza.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi emphasised the “absolute need” to cease hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Macron reaffirmed France’s support for Egyptian mediation in the conflict.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said his country made a request to discuss the violence.

“The violence and attacks between Israel and Palestine must stop," Mr Di Maio said in a Facebook post.

“The EU with its 27 member states must take a clear and unified position and work to press the parties to sit together again at the negotiation table."

EU policy towards the region requires unanimity among the 27 EU member nations, so its actions and statements have not had the effect that could be expected from a bloc of 450 million people that has large trade interests in the Middle East.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and European Council President Charles Michel have both called for an end to the escalation in violence and to ensure that civilians are protected.

Pro-Palestinian critics of EU policy insist the bloc has been far too lenient when it comes to imposing sanctions on Israel.

The fighting broke out last week, when the Hamas militant group fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem after weeks of violence in the city between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police.

The protests were focused on the heavy-handed policing at Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

Since then, the Israeli military carried out hundreds of air strikes it said were launched against Hamas’s bases.

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired more than 3,100 rockets into Israel.

Over the weekend, Israel destroyed a building housing AP and other media, and claimed Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office. AP called on Israel to provide evidence.

“The destruction of media offices in Gaza is extremely worrying and the safety and security of journalists and all their colleagues, the press people, is essential,” said Peter Stano, the European Commission’s lead spokesman on foreign affairs.

“Independent reporting, especially in situations of conflict and especially from areas of conflict, is indispensable.”

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