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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Prediction 14: Possible
EU troop movements to Israel and/or the Middle East
EU 'acutely concerned' by Middle East
By Mark Beunderman
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU foreign ministers have urged Israel "not to
resort to disproportionate action" when defending itself against
Hezbollah attacks, while member states are evacuating their own
nationals after joint EU plans to bring Europeans home proved
|Ministers also discussed the possibility of sending troops to the
region as part of a new UN peace force.
Foreign ministers were on Monday (17 July) briefed by EU foreign
policy chief Javier Solana following a Sunday trip to assess the
escalating violence in Lebanon.
They met amid reports of more civilian casualties in mutual attacks
between Israel and the islamist Hezbollah movement, with the BBC
reporting that at least 10 Lebanese people died in an Israeli attack
in the south of the country.
Ministers agreed on a statement which was as similar as possible to
a text adopted by G8 leaders in St Petersburg over the weekend in
order to create an "international front to press Israel, Hamas and
Hezbollah," Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot said.
The statement says that the EU is "acutely concerned" at the
situation in the Middle East, "in particular at the deteriorating
humanitarian situation and the destruction of civilian
infrastructure, and deplores the loss of civilian lives on all
"The European Union condemns the attacks by Hezbollah on Israel and
the abduction of two Israeli soldiers. It calls for their immediate
and unconditional release and for the cessation of all attacks on
Israeli towns and cities," the text reads.
Ministers also said that The "EU recognises Israel's legitimate
right to self-defence, but it urges Israel to exercise utmost
restraint and not to resort to disproportionate action."
EU troops to the region?
The passage on Israeli actions is notably weaker than earlier
statements issued by the Finnish EU presidency last week, which had
simply called Israeli violence "disproportionate."
An Israeli diplomat told EUobserver that Jerusalem disliked this
wording, asking "what do people expect Israel to do?" in face of the
"indiscriminate terror" by Hezbollah rocket attacks.
As wished by Jerusalem, EU ministers also recalled "the need for the
Lebanese state to restore its sovereignty over the whole of its
national territory and to do its utmost to prevent [Hezbollah]
Ministers also discussed the possibility of sending troops to the
region as part of a new UN peace force.
UK prime minister Tony Blair said on Monday at the St Petersburg G8
meeting "The only way in my view we are going to get a cessation of
hostilities is if we have the deployment of an international force
into that area that can stop the bombardment coming over into Israel
and therefore gives Israel the reason to stop its attacks on
EU ministers agreed to in principle contribute to such a force if
the UN would request so, according to Finnish foreign minister Erkki
He said that "It is primarily the UN and the Security Council who
would have to deal with this issue" but added that EU ministers
"have made clear to favourably consider participating in such a
But speaking for the Netherlands, Mr Bot this would be "for others"
to do, with the Hague already overburdened by international peace
operations around the globe.
EU evacuation trouble
Meanwhile, member states are individually proceeding to evacuate
their nationals from the crisis region after weekend efforts at EU
coordination proved troublesome.
Mr Tuomioja referred to "intensive consular co-operation co-ordinated
by the presidency."
With the EU not having a consular service, "improvisation worked
very well," the Finnish politician said.
But Mr Bot said that The Hague concluded on Saturday it had to rely
on its "own force" when it became clear that common EU efforts were
He said that Finland has no embassy in Lebanon and had ask to use
Germany's, while France would send a ship to pick up Europeans but
that ship "had not arrived."
Slovak foreign minister Igor Kubis told EUobserver "Some states did
provide their services to other nationals - like Czech aircrafts
taking on board also Slovaks citizens."
But ministers agreed to set up a working group that "would suggest
measures for even better co-ordination in future," he added.
Some European families were lucky and fitted into the helicopter
flying Mr Solana from Lebanon to Cyprus on Sunday; the foreign
policy chief said. "On my legs, I had a little baby."