As a means of helping to achieve a long‑term calming of the situation in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier is advocating working together with European partners to reactivate the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM Rafah). He said that Germany, France and Great Britain’s initiative aimed to flank Egypt’s mediation efforts.
Following four weeks of extremely heavy fighting which has claimed countless victims, the international community is urging both sides in the conflict to finally reach a long‑term calming of the situation. The Foreign Minister said that this was not only about breaking off the fighting but more importantly it was about summoning up “the courage and readiness” to “change the status quo”.
Sustainable solution for both sides
In order for there to be a long‑term solution, Israel’s security needs had to be taken into account and the rocket fire from Gaza had to stop. Equally, the situation of the people in Gaza and their economic perspectives had to be improved in order “to bring the interminable suffering of the civilian population to an end at long last”, Steinmeier continued.
On Saturday (9 August), Germany, France and Great Britain’s Foreign Ministers issued a joint statement calling on both sides to return to a ceasefire immediately and to deal with the urgent humanitarian needs. The so‑called “E3” were ready to support both sides in establishing a long‑term ceasefire, they stated.
Joint EU mission to monitor border crossings
To this end, Germany, France and Great Britain have made certain proposals. The core aim is to reactivate the joint EU mission to monitor the border crossings out of Gaza. Commenting on this, on 7 August Foreign Minister Steinmeier issued the statement: “Together with our European partners we are ready to make a contribution – for example with an EU mission to monitor border crossings.”
The “EUBAM Rafah” mission was set up in 2005. Its activities had been suspended following the closure of the border crossing after Hamas came to power in June 2007.
In this regard, it was important that the opening of the border crossings took place under international supervision, said Steinmeier in an article published in the Welt am Sonntag (3 August). The aim had to be that “Hamas weapons in Gaza no longer present a constant military threat to Israel” and the that smuggling of weapons be prevented. There needed to be a legitimate and trustworthy partner in the Gaza Strip, he said, a role which the Palestinian Authority should once again take on.
Flanking Egyptian mediation
The proposal of the so‑called “E3” aimed to flank Egypt’s current mediation efforts. Commenting on the next steps, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said: “We are currently in intensive talks with all parties in order to clarify what would be necessary for this.”
Since the outbreak of the current fighting four weeks ago, Foreign Minister Steinmeier has been deeply involved in the efforts to bring it to an halt. To this end he travelled to Israel and the Palestinian territories in mid‑July to hold talks with both sides. He had further discussions on the subject in the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 22 and 23 July. At the end of July the German Foreign Minister travelled to Paris for an international meeting of Foreign Ministers, convened at short notice, in order to search for further ways out of the current confrontation.