Bulgaria’s caretaker Foreign Minister Svetlan Stoev has expressed serious concern over the high level of tension between Israel and Palestine, the rocket attacks from Gaza, the attacks on civilians that have resulted in numerous casualties, and the inter-community clashes in Israel, the Foreign Ministry in Sofia said on May 18.
“The ongoing rocket fire from Hamas and other terrorist organisations in Israel, which terrorises both countries, is unacceptable and we condemn it,” Stoev said at a special video conference of EU foreign ministers, according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry.
“Violence could lead to future radicalisation, especially among young people in the region, and worsen the situation for years to come,” Stoev said.
He emphasised that the loss of innocent lives and the growing number of injured on both sides, especially children, was unacceptable.
Stoev said that the immediate priority should be to stop hostilities, provide immediate humanitarian access and negotiate a possible truce.
After the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell summarised the key points of the discussion among the bloc’s foreign ministers, according to a statement by the Council of the European Union.
These included that the priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and the implementation of a ceasefire, in order to protect civilians, and give full humanitarian access in Gaza.
The upsurge in violence in the last days has led to a high number of civilian deaths and injured, including a high number of children and women. This is unacceptable, the EU foreign ministers said.
“The indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups on the Israeli territory is to be condemned,” Borrell said.
“We fully support Israel’s right to self-defence. This has to be done in a proportionate manner and respecting international humanitarian law.”
The status quo of the Holy Sites must be fully respected, and the right to worship upheld, he said.
It was important not to proceed with evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, in line with the EU position on settlements, Borrell said.
“Real security for Israel and Palestine requires a true political solution that will bring peace. In order to do so, we need to restore a political horizon, explore space for re-engagement between the parties, develop confidence-building measures, improve the people’s living conditions, and open the path towards the potential relaunching of the peace process.”
The holding of Palestinian elections must be considered a priority, he said.
The statement said that the EU will renew its engagement with key partners like the new US administration, and a revived Quartet.
The EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, Sven Koopmans, will travel to the region to engage with the Quartet, other partners and the parties themselves, the statement after the EU foreign ministers’ meeting said.
(Photo of Stoev: Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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