Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Caroine Lucas' visit to Gaza: Statement from GP website

Caroline's back from official visit to Gaza - and calls for an urgent political solution to the conflict

Following a four-day visit to Gaza and the West Bank as part of a European Parliament delegation, Caroline Lucas MEP has warned that the Middle East peace process will fail unless political leaders recognise a Palestinian unity government – and insist on an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza.

Speaking about her trip to the region, party leader Dr Lucas said:

“The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development has today said it's crucial that Palestinians come together for reconciliation –and I would certainly agree with him. Yet the EU's refusal to recognise the previous unity government because it contained elements from Hamas – though democratically elected – was instrumental in dividing Palestinians and exacerbating tensions.

“If the Palestinians can put together a government of genuine unity, based on tolerance, pluralism, and a commitment to previous peace process agreements that include the recognition of Israel, then it is the responsibility of the international community to accept it – regardless of whether or not it contains members of Hamas.

“And indeed, a process of dialogue and reconciliation between the different Palestinian factions is already emerging. The political leaders gathering in Sharm-el-Sheikh this week for a conference on aid and the reconstruction of Gaza must recognise the need to support this political process and work towards bringing the West Bank and Gaza under unity control. More aid may provide short-term relief for the humanitarian crisis, but it is merely a sticking plaster on what is essentially a political struggle.

“There are already tonnes of aid piled up at the border into Gaza, but the continuing Israeli siege is preventing it from reaching the people who need it most. When I met with UN officials in Gaza this week, I was told that around 750 trucks a day are needed to maintain essential supplies. Currently, Gazans are lucky to see around 30.

“So, the international community must demand an urgent lifting of the siege of Gaza, and ensure the free movement of people, as well as goods, for the whole of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – in other words, the first steps towards ending the occupation, so that the Palestinian people can be allowed to start rebuilding their economies and communities.

Dr Lucas concluded: “Unfortunately, the main threat now to a two-state solution is the Israeli authorities’ continuing aggressive expansion of the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the further extension of the apartheid wall. Israel must be brought to account for this continued flouting of its commitments under both the Oslo Accords and recent peace agreements.”

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