Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez arrives for the European Council meeting in Brussels, Belgium, 26 October 2023. EFE/EPA/OLIVIER MATTHYS

EU leaders meet to call for ‘humanitarian corridors, pauses’ for Gaza

Brussels, Oct 26 (EFE).- The heads of state and government of the European Union (EU) were meeting to call for “humanitarian corridors and pauses” to allow aid to reach the Gaza Strip, according to the latest draft of the conclusions they hope to adopt at the summit they began Thursday in Brussels.

The European Council will express its “gravest concern for the deteriorating” of the humanitarian situation in Gaza and will call for “continued, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and aid,” according to the draft text.

It will call for aid to reach those who need it “all necessary measures including humanitarian corridors and pauses.”

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (L) and European Council President Charles Michel (R) during a press conference at the end of Tripartite Social Summit in Brussels, Belgium, 25 October 2023. EFE/EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

According to the draft conclusions, EU leaders will ensure that the bloc will “work closely” with its partners in the region to protect civilians, provide assistance and facilitate access to food, water, medical care, fuel and shelter, “ensuring that such assistance is not abused by terrorist organizations”.

Upon his arrival at the meeting, European Council president Charles Michel said that all of the EU’s members “agree on the fact that we respect and recognize Israel’s right to defend itself in international law; at the same time, it is extremely important to make humanitarian access possible, and we will have this discussion with the leaders.”

Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said that “a lot of work needed to be done” to address the ongoing Middle East crisis.

He repeated his government’s “emphatic, total, absolute condemnation” of Hamas’ attacks on Oct. 7, while also demanding the “unconditional” release of all hostages the “terrorist organization” took when it launched the surprise attack against Israel.

“Israel has every right to defend itself, but logically within the framework of international and humanitarian law,” Sanchez said.

Spain’s prime minister also echoed calls from other EU members to work towards a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The terms for defining how the EU will support the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza have been a “sensitive” issue in the negotiation of the summit’s conclusions, according to various diplomatic sources.

With Germany and Austria most reluctant to resolve a humanitarian “cease-fire”, the delegations have had to resort to a concept that would be acceptable to all 27 member states, which must unanimously approve decisions taken at the European Council.

On Monday, at the end of a Council of Foreign Ministers at which the issue was discussed, the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, indicated that the request for a “pause” would be supported by all.

The leaders will also condemn “in the strongest possible terms” all violence and hostilities against all civilians.

They will reiterate their condemnation of the “brutal and indiscriminate” terrorist attacks by the Islamic movement Hamas in Israel, as well as its use of civilians as human shields.

The EU will also insist on Israel’s “right to defend itself in accordance with international law and international humanitarian law” and will call on Hamas to “immediately release all hostages without any preconditions”.

They will also highlight “the need to avoid regional escalation” and to engage with partners in this regard, including the Palestinian Authority, and note that the EU is “ready to contribute to reviving the political process on the basis of the two-state solution.” EFE