Brussels: Egypt urged Europe on Sunday to help with fast reconstruction aid for the Gaza Strip and to put pressure on Israel to quickly reopen border crossings.
With shaky unilateral ceasefires in place after a 22-day Israeli offensive on Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, Israel has said it would allow in food, medicine and other essentials to the sector but ruled out a full reopening of borders for now.
“I ask the European Union to do (things) very, very quickly to rebuild to help the Palestinians to get out of this crisis,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said before talks with European and Palestinian counterparts.
“We need to force the Israelis to negotiate and also tell them to open crossings and to give Palestinians a chance to live in a normal way,” he told reporters.
The EU has said it is ready to reactivate and expand a mission launched in 2005 to monitor the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, but says agreement on that is hampered by the split between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah, which lost control of Gaza to Hamas amid fighting in 2007.
“The reunification of the Palestinians under the recognised and cherished voice of President Abbas is so important,” said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called for a Palestinian national unity government.
“When this government of consensus does not come about, I do not know how we can get out of this vicious circle,” he added of the repeated failure of efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The EU ministers said last week they won assurances from Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during talks in Brussels that crossings would be opened for humanitarian aid, while Livni urged the EU to help combat weapon smuggling into Gaza.
European officials stress their scope for action is limited while Cairo refuses to have a foreign presence on its soil to monitor the Egyptian end of a network of tunnels bringing in supplies, including arms,(according to Israel) to Gaza.
France is sending a naval mission to the region to pre-empt arms supplies coming into Gaza, and there are discussions among EU states about the possibility of a further maritime mission in the Red Sea.
However, officials say they do not expect concrete decisions to emerge from Sunday’s discussions, which also involve Turkey and Jordan.