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The Europeans are considering a plan to lift the blockade (maj2)

MoratinosAshtonAmbEspBastarrecheSagues-UE100118.jpg(BRUSSELS2) The European Union is starting to work on a plan to lift the blockade on Gaza. The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Angel Moratinos (1), confirmed, during his visit to Paris, that he wanted to propose to his European counterparts to initiate within the Quartet a plan to resolve the crisis, involving the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. “ We need to discuss this as soon as possible at EU level” he added, according to the Spanish news agency EFE. This plan would be accompanied, according to my information, by international (European?) control over border points, in order to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and avoid arms smuggling.

A point of view shared by several countries. The Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to Catherine Ashton on Thursday requesting an attitude “Options" but also "more consistent” of the EU on the issue. We need to get more involved to “become a factor of development in the peace process in the Middle East” he explains. He also specified that this point should appear on the agenda of the Council of Foreign Ministers on June 14, or even during an informal meeting convened for the occasion. A position also shared by France (read: Gaza: “No longer just take out the checkbook but get involved).

On the side of Cathy Ashton's cabinet, it is also confirmed that the question is under debate at several levels: ministerial (by telephone contact) and technical. Several experts are currently working on the issue, both on the legal context of the blockade and boardings at sea (read: Le blockade ships supplying Gaza: legal?) as on the possibility of reopening border points and having a European control presence.

Talking about the redeployment of the EUBAM Rafah mission (assuming that this border point remains open for a certain time) is still too “early” according to the EU. This remains “ subject to authorization from the authorities concerned (in other words Israeli and Egyptian) specifies a close friend of the High Representative. PSC ambassadors are expected to discuss the situation in Gaza and the Middle East this week, ahead of a Foreign Minister-level debate at the June 14 Council.

(update) Sunday, in Paris, receiving his British counterpart, Bernard Kouchner proposed that the EU ensure control of ships going to Gaza. “We can well control the cargo of the boats heading towards Gaza. We can do it, we want to do it, we would do it willingly,” he said, also referring to the resumption of European control over the Rafah land post.

(maj2) Tuesday, in Berlin, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini was more reserved, according to AFP. “Both parties must agree. International control of Rafah was stopped because Hamas no longer wanted it and the Egyptians closed the crossing point. (..) We must help our Israeli friends find a system to control the security of goods, while maintaining access to goods because the people of Gaza are not guilty”. And add: “We will talk about it on Monday in Luxembourg.”

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Moratinos knows the Middle East well having been the EU's special envoy to the region, from 199§ to 2003.

(photo credit: EU Council – Moratinos and C. Ashton with the Spanish Ambassador to the EU in the center – Bastarreche Sagues, during the council of January 18, 2010)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).