Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union, arrived in the Gaza Strip Thursday [June 20 2013], and visited a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).Ashton affirmed that the European Union is committed to supporting the UNRWA and its work, and that the EU’s support will remain strong both politically and financially.
“I visited Gaza several times; today I visit Gaza on the Refugees Day to highlight our support to the refugees and the UNRWA”, Ashton said, “What is needed to be done is deeds not words, there are a lot of officials who visit Gaza, but what we need in actual outcomes”
“I am happy to be here, but what is important is what will happen after I leave, we need to develop the economy in Gaza”, she added, “We want to make sure children have better education, and a better future”.
The European Union official further stated that Gaza border terminals must be opened, and thanked the UNRWA for its ongoing work in Gaza despite financial difficulties it faces.
On the political level, Ashton said that the EU supports a just settlement to the conflict, and supports developing the Gaza Strip and advancing its humanitarian conditions.
Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, who accompanied Ashton, stated that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are facing very difficult conditions, ongoing siege and frustration.
Grandi added that the refugees’ issue is very essential, and that there should be a serious solution to the issue of millions of Palestinian refugees.
He also stressed on the importance of resuming direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
On his part, Palestinian Legislator, head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, Jamal El-Khodary, demanded Ashton, and the EU, to practice pressure on Israel to fully lift the siege on the coastal region.
“This siege is illegal and immoral”, El-Khodary said, “This unjust siege must be lifted immediately, the EU must act of obliging Israeli to lift it”.
He also stated that this siege, that entered its seventh years, is directly impacting the Palestinians, and every aspect of their lives, as it is preventing any development, reconstruction and emptied Gaza of basic supplies.