28 Apr 2007

Caroline Lucas calls for EU assistance to Palestine



MEP IN PALESTINE TO MEET PRESIDENT ABBAS

LUCAS DEMANDS RETURN OF EU AID AND RELEASE OF BBC REPORTER

EURO-MP Caroline Lucas will call for the full restoration of EU financial
payments to the Palestinian Authority, and the immediate release of
kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston, during a meeting with Palestinian
president Mahmoud Abbas next week.

The Green MEP will travel to Palestine as part of a European Parliamentary
delegation investigating the impact of the EU’s refusal to pay financial
assistance to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

The Green Party MEP said: “During my visit to Palestine I will meet senior
Hamas and Fatah figures and representatives of the UN as well as president
Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. I will ask what the EU can
be doing immediately to alleviate poverty and promote peaceful dialogue
between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

“I will also seek news of BBC journalist Alan Johnston and put pressure on
both Mr Abbas and Mr Haniyeh to intervene and secure his swift, safe,
release.”

The suspension of aid payments to the Palestinian Authority is creating
poverty and hunger across the occupied territories. Poverty has increased by
30 per cent since payments were suspended, public services are in meltdown
as hospitals are starved of funding and the economy, which has shrunk by 10
per cent in the last year alone, faces collapse.

Dr Lucas said: “A humanitarian disaster is unfolding amid the chaos of the
conflict-ridden occupied Palestinian territories – and the EU is, in part,
to blame.

“The EU first suspended payments in April last year following the unexpected
and overwhelming victory of Hamas in elections to the Palestinian
parliament, demanding Hamas recognise Israel, and renounce violence.

“Although the EU established a Temporary International Mechanism, which has
managed to support some of the poorest people, it has been unable to prevent
the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the financial boycott.

“Following the creation of a new ‘unity government’ and recent statements
made by Hamas there is no possible justification for refusing to restore
full financial assistance payments, in line with previous agreements,
immediately.

“We must also put pressure on other key donors, like the US and Canada, to
do the same, and on the Israeli government to resume payments of with-held
tax collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.”

The delegation will hold a series of meeting at the Palestinian Legislative
Council in Ramallah before visiting a hospital in Gaza, meeting the mayor of
Bethlehem and the checkpoints dividing Hebron’s old town from neighbouring
Israeli settlements.

Dr Lucas added: “The EU must restore its Palestinian funding in full, or
risk completely undermining the causes of peace and democracy in the Middle
East. Depriving the people of Palestine of their basic human rights just to
punish their democratic choices is not a path to peace.”


ENDS

Notes to Editors:


1. Dr Lucas will leaving for Palestine on Sunday, April 29th and returning
on Thursday, May 3rd. She will be available for interview and comment during
the delegation by arrangement with Ben on either number below.
2. Pictures f caroline Lucas meeting BBC representatives in Strasbourg to
discuss Alan Johston before leaving for Palestine are available on request.
3. For a full itinerary contact Ben.


For more information please contact Ben on 01273 671946, 07973 823358 or
ben@greenmeps.org.uk

www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk

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