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7. 1. 2009 10:55

Summary of the Speech of the President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council Karel Schwarzenberg

Summary of the speech of the President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations at the press conference held after the arrival of the EU delegation from the Middle East to Prague

‘We left for the Middle East with realistic goals. We began to prepare this trip, together with our European colleagues, immediately after it had become evident that events in Gaza were developing in a dangerous way. We have prepared the trip in the Troika format (EU Presidency, European Commission, European Council), which I consider a powerful instrument of the common European policy.

We were accompanied by the Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, as the representative of the forthcoming Presidency, and the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, whom we have invited in order to ensure a smooth transition from the French Presidency. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has jointed our efforts as well, which has undoubtedly strengthened the position of the European Union.

Our trip did not result in a ceasefire despite the fact that the attempt to establish a ceasefire was one of its main objectives. The participants of the conflict have not reached an agreement on this issue yet. However, we have registered certain elements of hope that, nevertheless, need to be further developed.

The High Representative of the European Union, Javier Solana, who participated in the mission, continues the negotiations in the region.

During our negotiations we have focused special attention on humanitarian issues. These issues were also emphasised by the European Commissioner for External Affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

I have also repeated my opinion on Hamas to all partners – that it is clear that Hamas started the fighting and thus it is clear that it is to blame for the conflict. However, we need to remain aware of the suffering of all the citizens of Gaza, who are under direct fire and in a difficult situation, as well as the outrage of all the Arab states, particularly the states in the region, which weakens the position of the legitimate Government of president Abbas. At present the suffering of the civilians troubles us the most.’

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