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European Commissioner visits Gaza Strip

Comments from Commissioner Michel during his visit to the Khan Yunis refugee camp and the Rafah Border Crossing

European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, visited today the Gaza Strip to assess the Humanitarian situation. He started his visit by signing an agreement to provide €14 million to the food aid programme of UNRWA. He then supervised the delivery of this aid in a distribution centre of the UNRWA in the Khan Yunis refugee camp and visited the demolished settlements, before moving to the Rafah Border Crossing, between Gaza and Egypt. Five days ago, this border became the first to be controlled by Palestinian officials with the assistance of EU observers.

Talking to the refugees and the press in Khan Yunis, Commissioner Michel said: “Be sure that Europe does not forget you, we will never let you down. The agreement I just signed is a clear sign that we are and will be supporting Palestinian refugees. The EU has no other agenda than to help building sustainable peace and prosperity. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner and myself will be doing our outmost to ensure that the European Commission steps up its concrete assistance as peace dividends.”

Commenting the current political situation in Gaza, he added: “From my experience of conflicts, I have observed that hatred can be overcome; offence can be forgiven, when the people resolutely aspire for peace and when their leaders carry this aspiration. The disengagement is a first step into the right direction. It provides a good momentum to bring forward peace and prosperity. Moving forward in the Peace Process requires a lot of courage and true leadership from political leaders in both sides.”

In Rafah, Commissioner Michel congratulated the Palestinian authorities and the first EU observers for a successful start in a highly symbolic task. “It is just five days since the EU started providing this monitoring mission at the Gaza-Egypt border at Rafah, verifying that agreements are observed, and that procedures are carried out in line with international standards. This is the kind of initiative that can help to rebuild confidence between the parties and to move forward. It is also a clear example of the added value that the EU can bring.”

On the 29th, Louis Michel visited Ramallah and East Jerusalem, to assess the humanitarian situation. “I am particularly concerned by the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and the difficulties experienced by the Palestinians because of the increasing restrictions to mobility. Humanitarian workers must be able to operate in an environment which ensures full compliance with International Humanitarian Law.”

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