Aid agencies call for suspension of EU-Israel pacts

January 7th, 2009 - 10:03 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 7 (IANS) A coalition of major human rights and development organisations Wednesday called on the European Union (EU) to immediately suspend its latest pacts with Israel until the violence in Gaza ends, IRNA reported.”Israel has shunned diplomatic efforts by the EU and the delegation has returned empty-handed. The EU’s credibility is now at stake,” Daleep Mukarji, director of Christian Aid in Britain and Ireland, said.

“It is inconceivable that we should extend further benefits of European partnership to a government that violates international humanitarian law and refuses negotiation in favour of continued violence,” he added.

He said that it was “time for a robust EU action to bring about an immediate ceasefire and end the violence on all sides.”

The call was made by a coalition of agencies from over 10 European countries, including Oxfam International, World Vision and Muslim Aid.

It comes ahead of an informal meeting of EU ministers in Prague Thursday amid a process that is supposed to enhance mutual economic and political cooperation across a range of sectors with Israel.

The organisations however warned about the worsening humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. They said millions of Gazans face extreme shortages of electricity and water, while thousands have fled their homes due to the ongoing Israeli military operation.

On Dec 27, Israel launched military operations on Gaza in response to the rocket attacks by Hamas-led militant groups from the salient. According to reports, more than 600 people were killed and 2,700 others wounded in the 11-day conflict.

Tel Aviv says the aim is to stop Hamas militants from firing rockets at southern Israel.

This was “not the time to be awarding benefits to a party to the conflict,” an official said.

“Civilian casualties, destruction of homes, schools and basic infrastructure in Gaza are shocking and increasing every day. The EU cannot proceed with enhancing ties with Israel while violations continue there,” Souhayr Belhassen of a human rights organisation said.

“The EU must now apply real pressure to convince Israeli and Hamas leaders to accept this and redouble its efforts to achieve sustainable peace in the region,” Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International, said.

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