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EU ministers call for Gaza cease-fire

 French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, right, gestures as he speaks with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, left,  Czech Foreign Minister Karel ...
 French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, right, reacts as he arrives with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Greek Foreign Minister...
 Demonstrators hold Palestinian flags an picture of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as they protest the Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, i...
 Demonstrators shout anti-Israeli slogans as they protest the Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Thiba...

France Europe Gaza

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, right, gestures as he speaks with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, left, Czech Foreign Minister Karel ...

France Europe Gaza

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, right, reacts as he arrives with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Greek Foreign Minister...

FRANCE MIDEAST PROTEST

Demonstrators hold Palestinian flags an picture of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as they protest the Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, i...

FRANCE MIDEAST PROTEST

Demonstrators shout anti-Israeli slogans as they protest the Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Thiba...

European Union nations conducted an urgent meeting on the Gaza crisis Tuesday and urged Israel and Hamas to accept an "immediate and permanent cease-fire."
"The cessation of fighting should allow lasting and normal opening of all border crossings" in keeping with a 2005 agreement, an EU statement said after the foreign ministers met in Paris.
Food, medical aid and fuel should be delivered to the Gaza Strip, wounded victims should be evacuated and aid workers allowed to enter the area, the statement said. The EU said it is ready to send assistance to Rafah to enable that border to open and possibly to other border points.
The 27-member bloc said the peace process must be stepped up. "There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Gaza or elsewhere," the EU said in its only direct reference to the four-day Israeli offensive.
The carefully worded statement did not assign blame for Israel's air campaign and Hamas' rocket attacks on Israel that preceded it, referring instead to "tragic events in Israel and Gaza."
The meeting followed a flurry of telephone diplomacy that began slowly and picked up speed after the start of the Israeli assault, which has killed at least 368 Palestinians. Most of the dead were members of Hamas security forces, but the number included at least 64 civilians, the U.N. said.
Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, had spoken with Israeli, Egyptian and Syrian officials to explore the possibility of a "humanitarian cease-fire" in Gaza, his ministry said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was to meet with Sarkozy in Paris on Thursday. The president's office denied persistent Israeli media reports that Sarkozy would travel to Jerusalem on Monday to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Before Tuesday's EU meeting, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner spoke on the phone with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to push for an immediate cease-fire and an evacuation of the wounded in Gaza, his ministry said.
France holds the European Union's rotating presidency until Thursday, when the Czech Republic takes over, and Paris was clearly pushing to make a difference in the crisis.
"The European Union is more determined than ever to assist alongside the other members of the Quartet (the U.N., the United States and Russia) and the region's states in ending violence and relaunching the peace process," the EU statement said.
Israel began its attacks directed against Gaza's Hamas rulers on Saturday, shortly after a six-month truce expired.


Updated : 2021-05-09 06:01 GMT+08:00