EU leaders failed to clarify their stance on Gaza’s humanitarian crisis in talks on Friday, despite Belgian and Irish leaders calling for a ceasefire.
The EU summit ended without any new conclusions on the Israel-Hamas war, as leaders chose to repeat previous assertions. declaration Israel’s right to self-defense under international law and the need for unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza.
Calls for a “humanitarian moratorium and corridor” made in late October contributed to decisive diplomatic pressure, with a six-day ceasefire and dozens of Israelis in the custody of Hamas, which the EU considers a terrorist organization. This led to the release of the hostages. Since the deadly attack on Israel on October 7th.
Many had expected a tougher stance from the EU after a majority of member states on Tuesday backed a UN resolution calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.
But European Council President Charles Michel said at a post-summit press conference that the leaders had only consolidated their common position, and that the European Union’s commitment to a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict based on the so-called two-state solution He said they were just discussing the vision.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, one of Israel’s most critical voices among member states, said: “I don’t want to say anything more than Charles Michel, who represents the voices of all member states. Everyone knows what it is,” he said. So does the Spanish government. ”
His comments appeared to be aimed at European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who was also present at the press conference, and who expressed her unwavering support for Israel and the need for restraint and civil rights in Gaza. They have been heavily criticized for their reluctance to seek welfare.
More than 18,000 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis are estimated to have died in the conflict since October 7.
Early Friday morning, Irish Prime Minister Leo Vardakar and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo met. clearly expressed They support the EU’s push for a humanitarian ceasefire, suggesting the tide is turning in their favor following the UN resolution.
“The majority of EU countries are now calling for a ceasefire,” Mr Varadkar said. “There are one or two people who don’t, and that’s because they believe they can prevent Israel from going after Hamas terrorists. I don’t agree with that interpretation.”
“We need a cessation of hostilities,” Decroo said.
“They (Israel) have the right to eliminate terrorist threats originating in Gaza, but only with restraint and respect for international humanitarian law,” Decroux added. And I think it’s very clear that too many civilians are being killed. Stop killing civilians. ”
Ireland and Belgium, along with Spain and Slovenia, have led the EU’s call for Israeli restraint and a humanitarian ceasefire to save the lives of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli leaders have slammed both countries’ positions and summoned the ambassadors of Spain, Belgium and Ireland in Tel Aviv in late November in a clear sign of escalating diplomatic tensions.
Israel’s staunch allies Austria and the Czech Republic were the only countries to vote against the UN resolution on Tuesday, warning that the EU’s joint ceasefire call will not undermine Israel’s efforts to eradicate Hamas. He has consistently expressed his concerns.
Most capitals have accepted the EU’s balanced approach and defended Israel’s right to self-defense while calling for respect for international humanitarian law, but as the war drags on, countries are drawn to calls for more restraint.
Among the countries that supported Tuesday’s UN ceasefire call were Croatia, Denmark, France, Finland, Greece, Poland and Sweden, which opposed or abstained in a similar vote in October. Ta. Germany, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands abstained from voting.
“I am glad that France is one of the first countries to agree to an immediate ceasefire that will lead to a ceasefire,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters.
“I insisted that we urgently need to take a more consistent position on this issue and move forward,” Macron added.
“We are all moving in the same direction,” Macron said, suggesting member states were gradually coming together around the call for a ceasefire. EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell also recently was suggested It argued that a permanent cessation of hostilities should “develop” into a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
After the summit, Cyprus President Nicos Christodoulides also expressed his deep dissatisfaction with the lack of a conclusion regarding the Gaza conflict. The Cypriot government is leading efforts to facilitate humanitarian access to Gaza by establishing a bespoke maritime corridor that connects the Mediterranean island directly to the Gaza coast.
Bloc considers tougher sanctions
In a sign of the EU’s hardening stance on Israel, EU foreign ministers earlier this week discussed plans for sanctions, including a travel ban, against violent Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Diplomatic sources say the sanctions plan is aimed at “preserving the possibility of a Palestinian state,” given the extremist settlers’ fierce opposition to the so-called two-state solution, which the Palestinians see as key to a peaceful solution to the conflict. stated that it is aimed at.
“The escalation in violence by extremist settlers is causing untold suffering to Palestinians. It undermines prospects for durable peace and could further exacerbate instability in the region,” von der Leyen said. told the European Parliament on Wednesday.
“I am in favor of sanctioning those involved in the attacks in the West Bank. They must be held accountable. This violence has nothing to do with the fight against Hamas and must stop. No,” she added.
Member states including Belgium, France and Germany are also considering national measures to ban extremist Israeli settlers from entering their countries.
Britain confirmed on Thursday it would ban extremist Israeli settlers from entering the country.
The EU is also considering plans to tighten sanctions against Hamas, including financial restrictions on militants deemed to be behind the group’s deadly Oct. 7 assault on Israel.