External Relations European Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner (2d R) and Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja, (2d L), during a visit to Rambam hospital in the northern city of Haifa, Israel, Thursday July 27
BRUSSELS (EJP)--- The current Finnish Presidency of the EU has called an emergency meeting of 25 EU foreign ministers to discuss the escalating violence in the Middle East.
The meeting will take place in Brussels on 1 August, less than a week after the crisis conference held in Rome on 26 July, where top US and European officials disagreed on an action to halt the hostilities in Lebanon and on the creation and deployment of an international peacekeeping force.
France, Germany, Italy and Greece have already signalled interest in joining such a peace force.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana declared : "I cannot imagine the force without any Europeans". “I think several member states of the European Union will be ready to provide all necessary assistance,” he added.
The European Commission has already committed 20 million euros in humanitarian aid to Lebanon and is pushing the European Parliament and member states to allow it to release a further 30 million euros.
11 million euros will also be made available to help citizens from developing countries to leave Lebanon.
|European Parliament's conference of presidents meets also Tuesday|
|"Following the many civilian casualties left by the bombing of the Lebanese town of Qana and the numerous - so far unsuccessful - appeals for a ceasefire", the European Parliament's Conference of Presidents will also meetTuesday 1 August, at 11am to review the situation after the 18 days of fighting in the Middle East. External relations Commissioner Benito Ferrero-Waldner will take part, as will a representative of the EU Council. At its meeting on 20 July, the European Parliament's conference of presidents called for an immediate cease-fire in the region that would allow the rapid deployment of the international humanitarian aid effort and the return of international law. |
Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja and Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner travelled this week to the Middle East for talks with political leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon.
The EU is willing to play a forefront role in presenting steps to solver the Mideast crisis.
“The EU has to show leadership and do its utmost to facilitate a return to peace, » Tuomioja said.
The Finnish minister said Thursday that Israel misinterpreted the outcome of the Middle East conference in Rome and that the fighting in Lebanon should cease immediately.
Tuomioja said Israeli views that the Rome declaration indicated it should continue its offensive were ”totally wrong”.
Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon, who is close to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that Israel interpreted the lack of consensus at Rome as a green light to continue its attacks on Hezbollah militants.
“We received yesterday in the Rome conference permission, in effect, from the world, part of it gritting its teeth and part of it granting its blessing, to continue the operation, this war, until Hezbollah’s presence is erased in Lebanon and it is disarmed,” Ramon told Israel’s Army Radio on Thursday.
“It’s a totally wrong interpretation, because the whole basic idea of the Rome conference was to very quickly help end the war and hostilities,” Tuomioja, who headed the EU delegation in Rome, told Finnish reporters.
“Without a doubt, there were diverging views in Rome but most of the countries, including the European Union, also specifically want an immediate halt to the hostilities,” Tuomioja said.
“Israel understands and recognises the EU’s essential role in the Mideast peace process,” he added.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also called Israel’s interpretation of the Rome conference outcome a “gross misunderstanding”, insisting the declaration did not indicate that Israel should continue its offensive in Lebanon.
“I would say just the opposite – yesterday in Rome it was clear that everyone present wanted to see an end to the fighting as swiftly as possible,” he told reporters in Berlin.