EU presses Abbas on unity government
13 November 2006, Brussels (dpa) - European Union foreign ministers Monday called for the rapid formation of a Palestinian national unity government to ease a damaging international political and financial boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. EU ministers, meeting in Brussels for a monthly review of global flashpoints, also discussed plans for a stronger security role in violence-racked Afghanistan. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner, told reporters the 25-nation bl
13 November 2006
Brussels (dpa) - European Union foreign ministers Monday called for the rapid formation of a Palestinian national unity government to ease a damaging international political and financial boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
EU ministers, meeting in Brussels for a monthly review of global flashpoints, also discussed plans for a stronger security role in violence-racked Afghanistan.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner, told reporters the 25-nation bloc was increasingly concerned about the growing number of civilian casualties in Israeli-Palestinian violence.
"All sides must exercise maximum restraint," she said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must be encouraged in his struggle to forge a unity government including members of the Hamas militant group and the more moderate Fatah movement, she said.
"Those seeking a new government need our support and a calm environment," said Ferrero-Waldner, adding: "Let's hope they have a good government with which we can work."
However, contacts with a new Palestinian Authority would only be established after scrutiny of its political programme, she said.
The EU and the United States cut off direct assistance to the Palestinian government after Hamas won legislative elections in Gaza and the West Bank earlier this year.
The militant Palestinian group is classified as a terrorist organization by both Brussels and Washington.
The EU and the US have said their aid to the PA will restart once Hamas recognizes Israel, renounces violence and agrees to abide by past peace treaties.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also voiced hopes that Abbas would succeed in establishing a Hamas-Fatah administration, saying this appeared more likely following the resignation of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya as prime minister.
EU chief diplomat Javier Solana added that he was "optimistic" a new Palestinian government would soon see the light of day.
Under pressure from NATO to take on a stronger security role in Afghanistan, EU ministers discussed plans for helping train the country's police forces.
However, Steinmeier ruled out a deployment of German soldiers into volatile southern Afghanistan, saying the troops were already engaged in key security and civil reconstruction tasks in the north of the country.
The focus must now be on reinforcing activities such as police training, support in establishing political institutions and the judiciary, he said.
But Germany's work in the north must not be jeopardized by a deployment of forces to the south, he cautioned.
Afghanistan is going through its bloodiest phase of violence since the Taliban's ouster by a US-led invasion in 2001.
Some 3,000 people, mostly militants, have been reported killed in the Taliban-led insurgency and operations by foreign forces this year.
Separately, Solana told reporters ministers would reconfirm the withdrawal of European troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo despite clashes over the weekend between backers of President Joseph Kabila and his vice president and political rival, Jean-Pierre Bemba.
"I feel that the situation is going in the right direction. The proclamation of (election) results will be on Tuesday and I think we will be able to announce the withdrawal of troops according to schedule," said Solana.
Confirming the stance, German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said he saw "no reason" for extending the Congo mission.
The EU military operation in Congo counts about 2,000 troops with Germany supplying more than 700 soldiers.
EU ministers agreed to start human rights discussions with Uzbekistan and decided on a three-monthly review of sanctions imposed on the country following the killing of civilians during anti-government protests last year.
However, the current ban on weapons exports to Uzbekistan has been extended for another year and keep visa restrictions on top officials for another six months.
Meanwhile, Poland blocked EU plans for a new cooperation pact with Russia, citing Moscow's failure to ratify an international energy charter liberalizing the oil and gas sector.
Other EU governments are hoping Poland will lift its veto in the coming weeks so that the EU-Russia summit in Helsinki on November 24 can launch negotiations on the new agreement.
Subject: German news