An emergency European Union video meeting is set to call for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian group, Hamas, offer more humanitarian aid and try to relaunch peace talks, Malta’s foreign minister has said.
Evarist Bartolo told Reuters that new US President Joe Biden’s openness to seek a solution to the decades-old conflict was crucial, “because unless we address the root causes (the violence) will happen again”.
“I think I’m not being too optimistic (to say) that at a minimum, what will probably come out (of Tuesday’s EU meeting) is the call for a ceasefire, an offer of humanitarian aid and then seeing how to restart the political process,” Bartolo said.
After a ceasefire, the EU would “work with the United States, work with Russia to try and deal with the situation,” he added.
EU foreign ministers are debating on Tuesday how to use the 27-nation bloc’s political clout to help diplomatic efforts to end the fighting in the Middle East.
The EU has been united in its calls for a ceasefire and the need for a political solution to end the latest conflict – now in its second week – but the nations are divided over how best to help.
No firm decisions involving threats of sanctions or other measures are likely from the ministers’ videoconference.
More than 200 Palestinians, including 61 children, have been killed in heavy air strikes so far, and more than 1,400 people are wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.
At least 12 people in Israel have been killed in rocket attacks launched from Gaza.
Early on Tuesday, Israel carried out a wave of air strikes on what it said were “militant” targets in Gaza, levelling a six-storey building in downtown Gaza City, while Hamas fired dozens of rockets into Israel.
The fourth war between the two sides since 2008 has raised global concerns of a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of Palestinians displaced amid the violence and Gaza’s already strained healthcare system under increasing threat.
The EU is the biggest donor of aid to the Palestinians but holds little influence over Hamas or the state of Israel, despite having some trade arrangements that are favourable to the Israelis.
Before the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted that he had an exchange with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on how the United States and the bloc “can jointly contribute to end violence” and to reduce tensions.
“Looking beyond, we also need longer term initiatives to break the dynamics of conflict and revive the prospect of a peaceful future for all,” wrote Borrell, who is chairing the meeting.