26 EU Countries Call For Immediate ‘Humanitarian Pause’ In Gaza (But Not In Ukraine)

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Almost all European Union countries issued a joint call for an immediate ‘humanitarian pause’ of fighting in Gaza on Monday. Hungary was the only country that didn’t sign on to the statement.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced that 26 of 27 EU states had agreed to call for “an immediate humanitarian pause that would lead to a sustainable ceasefire.”

It followed some ten hours of intense talks among EU foreign ministers on Monday. The bloc has long struggled to gain consensus on the Gaza crisis, and once again Hungary’s Péter Szijjártó remained resistant to going along with the overwhelming majority.

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The statement further urged Israel to halt its planned assault on Rafah, which would “worsen an already catastrophic humanitarian situation and prevent the urgently needed provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance,” according to the statement.

In a perhaps indirect swipe at Budapest, Borrell said “I know very well that if there is no unanimity, there is no common EU position, but there can be a sufficiently majority-backed position” before adding: “Naturally, this doesn’t strengthen our position. Europe can only play a role when it is united.”

But there was much more resistance on efforts to sanction Israeli settlers:

A handful of member states – notably the Czech Republic and Hungary – had rejected targeting settlers under the same sanctions framework that applies to Hamas, designated a terrorist organization in the EU, fearing it would send a misleading political message.

“It is not a good political signal for terrorists (…) to be more or less in the same package as persons who commit extremely politically motivated acts, but that cannot in any way be compared to terrorism,” Czech foreign minister Jan Lipavský said ahead of the meeting on Monday, emphasising that his country had not been blocking the sanctions package entirely.

Germany signed on to the Monday statement, has so far not backed efforts that call for an “immediate” cessation of all hostilities, and has backed Israel’s “right to defend itself”. 

The UN Security Council has also been scrambling to get all members on board a formal call for ceasefire, which has thus far been elusive…

As for the settler issue, Borrell has said the EU will continue to “study how to proceed” on sanctions targeting settler violence against Palestinians. He also said the same will be done for Hamas members who have committed “human rights violations and sexual violence.”

Interestingly, while there’s been near total unanimity in this new call for humanitarian pause, the same has not be done for the Ukraine war, which has been raging for close to two years.

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