EU Mulls Rafah Mission, Next Diplomatic Steps After Talks With Arab Counterparts


By Alexandra Brzozowski

(EurActiv) — The EU is ready to reactivate its border mission around the besieged southern Gaza city of Rafah. The EU’s foreign ministers on Monday (27 May) agreed on this as part of stepping up their diplomatic and humanitarian efforts in the region.

The European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) Rafah could be used to monitor the humanitarian aid crossing point from Egypt. The mission has been dormant since the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas seized full control of Gaza in 2007.

“I have the green light from EU [foreign] ministers to reactivate the Rafah border mission,” the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said in Brussels on Monday after the meeting. However, he cautioned such a deployment would need the support of Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“We are not going to be doing this alone – we are not a security company – and we will do that with a clear political understanding [what its] role is,” Borrell said.

The Rafah crossing over the past weeks has been largely inaccessible after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month.

While Israel’s government has said it allowed hundreds of trucks with humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, United Nations agencies have said there has been a significant bottleneck for aid to enter.

Continuing military action

Earlier on Monday, Israeli airstrikes killed at least 35 Palestinians in Rafah. “Israel continues the military action it has been asked to stop,” Borrell told reporters.

He referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s top legal body, which ordered Israel on Friday (24 May) “to immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

Israeli officials have so far insisted they consider the ICJ order to allow room for some ground operations in Rafah, while both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Egypt on Monday accused Tel Aviv of deliberately targeting the centre for displaced people.

“Both sides don’t respect the rules,” Borrel said, in reference to Palestinian militant group Hamas who also fired rockets on Tel Aviv.

According to the bloc’s chief diplomat, EU foreign ministers also agreed to call for the EU-Israel Association Council “to discuss the situation in Gaza and respect human rights under the obligations Israel has assumed”.

This comes after Spain and Ireland earlier this year issued a joint call, seeking an “urgent review” of whether Israel is complying with human rights obligations under its trade agreement with the bloc.

Borrell did not provide any details as to when such a meeting could take place.

Two-state solution conference

Earlier on Monday, the EU foreign ministers met in Brussels with their Arab counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, and the UAE. Borrell said the meeting represented a “real political discussion I have [not] seen in the last four years”.

Arab ministers presented their peace plan proposal for the Middle East conflict, which according to Borrell included as one of the suggestions to consider the possibility of an international conference on how to implement the two-state solution.

Such a step could be potentially merged with an earlier proposal made by EU leaders last October, he added.

The EU’s Middle East peace plan, pitched in January, also foresees preparing for an international peace conference to broker a deal, aiming to provide security assurances for both Israel and a future Palestinian state.


EurActiv publishes free, independent policy news and facilitates open policy debates in 12 languages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *