EU eyes support for Palestinians: Envoys

AVIGNON, France: France is looking at the possibility of sending a European Union (EU) mission to help security in the Palestinian territories, diplomats said yesterday before a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers.

While there are no concrete proposals on the table yet, diplomats said the EU mission may involve help to guarantee security after any eventual peace deal, and possibly nearer-term support for Palestinian forces to build Israel’s confidence in security measures.

The European Union already helps monitor the Rafah crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, and provides mentoring and equipment for the Palestinian police.

A diplomat working for the French presidency of the EU said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner would put preliminary ideas for a European role in a possible international force to his peers at the meeting in Avignon today.

“If there is an (Israeli-Palestinian) peace agreement by the end of this year, the international community must mobilize to provide guarantees for this agreement,” the diplomat said.

“The international community, not only the EU but including the EU, would help guarantee this agreement with an international force that would include Europeans, so that the withdrawal of Israeli forces could go smoothly,” he said.

Another EU diplomat said the idea was to back up Palestinian security forces, because lack of trust with Israel was the main problem.

“The idea of an international force in the (Palestinian) territories and not only in Gaza is in the air for the medium or long term, in the framework of a resolution (of the conflict),” another EU envoy said.

Diplomats said there were no specific proposals under discussion as to the mandate for any EU mission.

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