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Støre and Blair in the European Parliament

– The Middle East is in need of political and economic action from the EU, says Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre. 25th March, he visited Brussels to discuss the situation in the Middle East, together with special envoy Tony Blair and president of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering.

27/03/2008 :: The meeting in the EP’s working group on the Middle East, to which Dr Pöttering had invited Messrs Støre and Blair, was arranged to put focus on the plight of the population of the Palestinian territories.

In his speech, Mr Støre emphasized the necessity of EU political willingness to take action in the Middle East region, through political as well as economic measures.
– The Middle East borders Europe. It is thus in our direct interest that the peace process succeeds. It is an honour for me to work so closely with Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner, and I applaud the European Parliament for supporting the active EU engagement, the Norwegian Minister said.

Mr Støre furthermore urged Europe to play a key role in holding the parties in the conflict to account for their actions.
– At Annapolis, President Bush stated that the US would be the judge of the progress made. Let us then be the jury, Mr Støre suggested.

 

Mr Blair is the special envoy to the Middle East of the so called Quartet, which consists of the UN, the EU, Russia and the US.  In his speech, he claimed that a solution to the conflict in the region could indeed be found.
– However, we are in a race against the time to find such a solution, Mr Blair warned.

Last year, at the so called Paris conference, the Palestinian authorities were promised financial support amounting to several hundred million euros. By many countries, these promises have however so far not been followed up by concrete actions.

Through its presidency of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), Norway has been in charge of administrating the donations. Just before Easter, the Norwegian government honoured its financial promises, by announcing a NOK 228 million (€29 million) contribution to a World Bank fund. This shall provide budget support to the Palestinian authorities. 25th March, the European Commission announced its contribution, a €300 million donation to be split between the UNRWA’s work with Palestinian refugees and the PEGASE, an EU project for infrastructural and social development in the Palestinian territories.

At the next AHLC meeting, which is to take place 2nd May in London, the effort to convert promises into payments will continue. Support to the Palestinian state will however not be the only topic of this meeting.
– In London, it will be time to hold Israel responsible for improving access and movement to the Palestinian territories. It will also be time to call for more direct engagement from the Arab states, Mr Støre said. 

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