"The European Union should commit itself to taking a leading role in seeking a just and sustainable peace" in the Middle East, writes Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in a letter addressed today to the foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) who will meet in Plateau de Kirchberg, Luxembourg, 15 and 16 April 2002.
Applauding previous EU statements on the Palestinian/Israel conflict, Raiser urges the foreign ministers to "translate declarations into actions", recommending three concrete initiatives:
He calls for a review of all "forms of military cooperation with the State of Israel, including instituting a strict arms embargo".
He urges the EU "to participate in an international mission or third-party mechanism on the ground to oversee Israeli compliance with the Security Council's demand that it withdraw immediately and completely from Palestinian territories, and Palestinian compliance with the demand to cease all further terrorist attacks against the Israeli population".
Raiser also calls for suspension of the EU-Israel Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement. He cites Article 2 of that agreement "that conditions 'relations between parties... on respect for human rights and democratic principles which guides their internal and international policy...'." The Agreement covers a large number of areas of cooperation between the 15 EU member states and Israel. For example, it specifies forms of cooperation in the fields of industry, energy, standards, financial services, information infrastructures and telecommunications, transport and tourism. The Agreement also deals with cooperation in the cultural field.
The letter echoes the appeals of the heads of Christian churches and communities in Jerusalem. They have consistently called for an end to violence on all sides, and have offered their good offices in the interest of a durable, negotiated settlement. In response to the churches' urgent appeals, the WCC has launched a campaign "To End the Illegal Occupation of Palestine: Support a just Peace in the Middle East", and has established an Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. European churches have taken a significant lead in both initiatives.
The text of the letter follows:
I write to express appreciation for the efforts you and your European Union counterparts have undertaken recently to bring an end to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. In particular, we welcome the Joint Statement of the EU, the US, Russia and the UN on the escalating confrontation in the Middle East issued yesterday following their meeting in Madrid. At the same time, we deeply regret the slow progress made by the international community in obliging the two sides, and in particular Israel, to comply with UNSC resolutions 1397 of 12 March, 1402 of 30 March and 1403 of 4 April. As a result, hundreds more Palestinian lives have been lost and untold additional damage done to Palestinian homes, institutions and infrastructure. The cycle of violence has not been halted, claiming an unconscionable number of Israeli lives as well.
The international community bears full, continuing responsibility for the effective implementation of UN resolutions since the adoption by the UNGA of the Plan of Partition in resolution 181 of 1947. Yet it has consistently allowed the State of Israel to ignore or openly violate successive General Assembly and Security Council resolutions with virtual impunity. For the international rule of law to be universally respected, and for the decisions of the United Nations to be credible, their selective application must be avoided at all costs.
In its statement to the current session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, the European Union has made its position on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and its causes clear in a way that we fully support. Now measures need urgently to be taken that translate declarations into actions to oblige compliance with the expressed will of the international community. This applies particularly to the repeated demand that Israel withdraw all its forces from Palestinian territories immediately and unconditionally. We therefore urge you to take further, decisive steps in this direction at the forthcoming meeting of EU Foreign Ministers along the lines of the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 10 April. Specifically, we urge you to consider initiatives that
- take account of Article 2 of the EU-Israel Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement that conditions "relations between parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself...on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement" and suspend this agreement until such time that Israel complies with these provisions;
- review all forms of military cooperation with the State of Israel including instituting a strict arms embargo;
- affirm the willingness of the European Union to participate in an international mission or third-party mechanism on the ground to oversee Israeli compliance with the Security Council's demand that it withdraw immediately and completely from Palestinian territories, and Palestinian compliance with the demand to cease all further terrorist attacks against the Israeli population.
We believe that the European Union should commit itself to taking a leading role in seeking a just and sustainable peace. This should apply not only to the immediate measures recommended above, but as EU High Representative Javier Solana told the European Parliament early this week, EU states must move rapidly towards
- addressing and removing the causes of this and future crises by pressing for an end to occupation and the establishment of two states within guaranteed and secure borders;
- proposing modalities for a new negotiation framework and participating fully in its elaboration and implementation;
- participating fully in efforts to reconstruct the Palestinian Authority's capacity to administer the territories under its control and to construct the Palestinian State.
We make these appeals for prompt action not as retribution against any party, but rather in the spirit of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence, that calls for non-violent means of resolving conflict and the application of restorative justice. In so doing, we echo the appeals and join with the intentions of the Heads of Christian churches and communities in Jerusalem who have consistently called for an end to violence on all sides and have offered their good offices in the interest of a durable, negotiated settlement.
Responding to the churches' urgent appeals, the World Council of Churches has launched a campaign this year "To End the Illegal Occupation of Palestine: Support a Just Peace in the Middle East." In relation to this campaign, we have also established an Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel in order to manifest the active solidarity of Christians around the world with the people living in the Holy Land at this critical time. The churches of Europe have taken a significant lead in these initiatives, seeking to embody our shared hopes and aspirations for peace with justice for all the peoples in these lands where our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was received as the Prince of Peace.
The European Community has taken the lead and been generous in its support for Israel and the Palestinian people in the past. In particular, it has supported Palestinian aspirations as they have struggled for their rights, to establish their own independent state, and to rebuild and develop their war-torn lives and land. Much of what they have done with your help has again been destroyed. We sincerely hope that you will face up boldly to this new challenge and prove your willingness to provide badly needed new leadership for peace and a new future. We assure you of our constant prayers and support in your efforts to that end.
The UN and other documents and agreements referred to above can be found on the following websites: