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Solana: Palestinians have right to end occupation

Solana: Palestinians have right to end occupation

Javier Solana, European Union Foreign Policy Chief on Wednesday asserted that the European Union supports the Palestinian people's right to end the Israeli military occupation "peacefully."

Solana who is in the Middle East for five days, visited Wednesday in Gaza, and earlier toured the northern area of the Gaza Strip, mainly the town of Beit Lahya and northern Jabalia Refugee camp and looked at the severe destruction there that was caused recently by the Israeli army's ongoing incursions.

Solana had then joined a group of official Palestinian politicians, civil society and human rights leaders, chiefs of police and security and businessmen in a workshop organized by the Palestinian Council on Foreign Relations (PCFR) in one of the hotels in Gaza City.

Solana praised what he called "the impressive Palestinian democratic experience" in reference to January 9 presidential elections held in the Palestinian territories, where Mahmoud Abbas was elected as a successor to late leader Yasser Arafat.

"What the Palestinians had done recently is impressive, and this is what I personally feel about the elections," Solana said. "What you have done has many implications and we should be aware of what you [Palestinians] did."

He said that the Palestinians have so many challenges in the coming future, but stressed that "the Palestinians must take this opportunity to work with us [Europe] and your Israeli partner."

PCFR Ziad Abu Amr classified in the workshop the Palestinian needs for he democracy building and the resumption of the peace process, adding that "the Palestinians are first in need to begin with "the steps of building confidence with Israel."

"This can be achieved by the release of prisoners, removing roadblocks and checkpoints and reaching a ceasefire agreement where a dialogue will start soon after new leader is sworn-in," said Abu Amr.

Abu Amr also focused on the question of what would be the role of the third party in the peace process "which is the European Union," adding "We want the Europeans to play a significant role in the coming phase."

Several found the workshop as an opportunity to express to Solana what the Palestinians feel about the situation, mainly after Arafat passed away and the current stage where Palestinians practice democracy and look for improving their economy and their living conditions.

Solana focused on two major issues; first is that the Palestinian economists and businessmen in the West Bank and Gaza should cooperate "in order to create a new venue of business cooperation between Europe and the Palestinians.

He also spoke about the role of the Palestinian security in the future after the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, stressing that the Israeli unilateral plan should be as part of the world's backed roadmap plan for peace in the Middle East.

"The implementation of the withdrawal from Gaza should be coordinated with the Palestinian government led by Mahmoud Abbas to make use of this opportunity to see more withdrawals and dismantle of settlements in the future," said Solana.

The workshop ended with all participants including Solana commonly agreeing that the Palestinians did very well in practicing the democratic process and that the coming phase is so important for making peace, achieving independence and economical prosperity for the Palestinians.

"We want the world to support us and we want to make use of this window of opportunity. Abu Mazen (Abbas) needs to be empowered and if you leaving us with the Israelis alone without your help, we would be crushed by Israel," ended Abu Amr, where Solana vowed to help the Palestinians.

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