Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry says that it is following with increasing anxiety and concern the development of mass protests in the Gaza Strip and the increasing number of fatalities and injured, including children.
“We call on both sides to take urgent resolute action to de-escalate the situation and create conditions for the resumption of the peace process,” the Foreign Ministry in Sofia said.
The statement came after weeks of increasingly violent clashes in Gaza, as large groups of Palestinians approached Israel’s security fence, with Israel responding with live fire. The conflict escalated on May 14, the day that on the orders of US President Donald Trump, Washington opened its embassy in Jerusalem, having transferred it from Tel Aviv.
Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said: “We reaffirm our deep conviction that a solution to the question of the status of Jerusalem and other contentious issues should be sought only through the direct negotiations between the Israeli and the Palestinian side within the Middle East peace process”.
Bulgaria, as an EU member state, remains committed to regional and international partners, including the Quartet for the Middle East, in support of reaching a two-state solution to the conflict, in line with the December 2017 EU Council Conclusions and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the Foreign Ministry said.
On May 14, 58 people died and more than 2700 were wounded in the Gaza protests, according to Palestinian officials. May 15 protests were centred on what Palestinians call the “Nakba”, or disaster, the anniversary of the expulsion of Palestinians during the 1948 war and the continued rejection of their “right of return.”
Israel, which has come under widespread criticism for its use of live fire against those approaching the fence, has been insisting it is exercising its right to defend its sovereign territory and says that terrorists are using the protests to attempt violent attacks on it.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, in a May 14 statement, said: “We expect all to act with utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life. Israel must respect the right to peaceful protest and the principle of proportionality in the use of force. Hamas and those leading the demonstrations in Gaza must ensure that they remain strictly non-violent and must not exploit them for other means”.