EU Must Put Israel Rapprochement on Hold, Aid Agencies Say | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 07.01.2009
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EU Must Put Israel Rapprochement on Hold, Aid Agencies Say

The European Union must put all hopes of building a closer relationship with Israel on hold until the fighting in the Gaza Strip ends, a group of leading aid agencies said Wednesday, Jan. 7.

A handshake in front of EU and Israeli flags

Now is not the time for closer ties, say 11 aid groups

It would be "inconceivable" for the EU to work for closer ties with Israel at a time when the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has been "pushed to crisis point" by Israel's assault on the salient, the statement by groups including Oxfam and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said.

"This is not the time to be awarding benefits to a party to the conflict ... The EU cannot proceed with upgrading its relations with Israel while such violations are taking place," FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen said in the joint statement.

Israel is a member of the EU's Neighborhood Policy, which is aimed at helping EU neighbors stabilize and improve their economic and political systems.

Call for hold on upgrading ties

On June 16, the EU accepted an Israeli request to upgrade bilateral cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, environmental protection and research.

However, in December the bloc stressed that that cooperation should include working towards a peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Given Israel's massive offensive against the Islamic group Hamas, which the EU lists as a terrorist organization, the 11 aid agencies who signed the statement demanded that the upgrade be put on hold.

Instead, "the EU must now apply real pressure to convince Israeli and Hamas leaders to accept (a truce) and redouble its efforts to achieve sustainable peace in the region," Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International, said.

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