During a visit to the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Baroness Catherine Ashton, Vice President of the European Commission and high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy said that the EU must end the suffering of the people of the Gaza and lift the siege which began nearly four years ago. At a news conference, Ashton said that her visit was vital to becoming better acquainted with the humanitarian consequences of the blockade as well as the impact this has upon rebuilding in the region following the devastation caused during the war.
Ashton met with United Nations officials in Gaza and commended the efforts and programs directed to assist and support the people of the sector in their current situation. She mentioned having visited an UNRWA school in Beit Lahiya and was please to see the enthusiasm and passion of Gaza's children to continue with their education and to get on with their lives. She mentioned having visited a UN distribution centre for assistance and expressed a hoped that her visit would achieve its objectives of being able to improve the difficult conditions experienced by the people of the sector.
Ashton stressed that she would endeavour to convey a sense of the great suffering being experienced in Gaza, during a meeting of the international Quartet scheduled to be held in the Russian capital, Moscow, tomorrow. Members of the Quartet which include the US, Russia, the EU and the UN will be meeting to assess the situation surrounding the resumption of peace talks between the PA and Israel following the recent set-back experienced by US efforts to mediate proximity talks between the two.
The visit to Gaza formed part of a trip which included appointments to meet with dignitaries and officials in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the Israeli entity and the Palestinian Authority in order to get an overview of all the points of view that exist in the region before heading to the meeting of the Quartet. She said that there was a lot of work to be done in order to end this situation, adding that the European Union was committed to working towards a peaceful solution to the situation in the region.
The Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, affirmed that Ashton's visit to Gaza was very important, especially given that the European Union is the largest donor to the Agency. Ashton is the highest level European official to visit the Strip since Hamas came to power in 2007. Grandi added that the Agency gave Ashton a message to take to the outside world about what she saw, and it will be a message to the European Union and the international community as a whole to end the suffering of Gazans.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad