Thursday, June 14, 2007

Senior UN and EU officials consider possible deployment of international forces in Gaza

Contributed by Lucia

"Bethlehem - Ma'an - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the possible deployment of a multinational force in Gaza with the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Associated Press has reported.

This follows hints, reported by Agence France Presse, that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana also suggested that all options should be considered to restore calm in the Gaza Strip, including the deployment of an international force.

Olmert and Abbas call for international deployment

According to AP, Mr. Ban said on Wednesday evening, "This is an idea which we need to explore possibilities, and I have initially exchanged views on this issue with the Security Council members just a while ago."

Ban said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raised the idea of a multinational force during a phone conversation on Tuesday and asked him "to consider this issue." Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "also raised this issue," he said, according to AP.

According to an official statement from the Israeli prime minister, reported by AFP, Olmert said: "Arab states must act with urgency in order to change the situation in the Gaza Strip and added that sending a multi-national force... in order to stop the strengthening of the extremist forces.".......

AP added that "Israel does not want to be seen to be openly involved in Gaza given that most Palestinians regard the Jewish state as the enemy, but it has discreetly been facilitating resupply of arms and ammunition to Abbas' Fatah forces."......

The UN secretary-general added that there are many issues to be discussed including "where to locate them, what would be the terms of reference, what would [be] their missions."

The Security Council would have to approve any UN peacekeeping operation in Gaza.

EU forces

In Brussels, the European Unions' chief of foreign policy, Javier Solana, also raised the idea. "It is time to look at all possible options," said Solana, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's suggestion on Tuesday that an international border force should be deployed on the Gaza - Egypt border.

"We are already there," said Solana, alluding to an EU observer mission monitoring Gaza's Rafah crossing point into Egypt -- the only way out of Gaza that avoids Israel. "The situation is getting very dramatic," he added, Agence France Presse added......."

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