China offers aid, COVID vaccines to Palestinians

International community welcomes ceasefire, calls for restarting peace talks

EU vows to increase efforts for political solution; Germany says work must be done on causes of conflict; France hails ‘fundamental role’ played by Egypt as a mediator

Israeli residents and rescue teams are pictured outside a building hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip, in the southern city of Ashdod, on May 17, 2021. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
Israeli residents and rescue teams are pictured outside a building hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip, in the southern city of Ashdod, on May 17, 2021. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

The European Union on Friday welcomed a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terror group and vowed to increase efforts for a long-term “political solution” to resolve the crisis.

“The European Union welcomes the announced ceasefire bringing to an end the violence in and around Gaza,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement, despite the rocket fire on southern and central Israel. “We commend Egypt, Qatar, United Nations, United States and others who have played a facilitating role in this.”

“We are appalled and regret the loss of life over these past 11 days. As the EU has consistently reiterated, the situation in the Gaza Strip has long been unsustainable.”

The statement insisted that “only a political solution will bring sustainable peace and end once for all the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a media conference in Brussels, June 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool)

“Restoring a political horizon towards a two-state solution now remains of utmost importance. The EU is ready to fully support Israeli and Palestinian authorities in these efforts,” it said.

“The EU is renewing its engagement with key international partners, including the United States, and other partners in the region, as well as with the revitalized Middle East Quartet, to this end,” the statement read.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas welcomed the agreement, but said the root causes of the conflict now needed to be addressed.

“Good that there is now a ceasefire,” Maas tweeted, a day after he visited Israel and Ramallah for talks. “Now we have to deal with the causes, rebuild trust and find a solution to the Middle East conflict,” he said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi (C) visit a building that was hit by Hamas rocket fire from Gaza, on May 20, 2021, in Petah Tikva. (Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “Welcome news of a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza. All sides must work to make the ceasefire durable and end the unacceptable cycle of violence and loss of civilian life. UK continues to support efforts to bring about peace.”

France welcomed the deal but said the violence underscored the need for a relaunch of the peace process between the Jewish state and Palestinians.

“I welcome the ceasefire, which puts an end to a cycle of violence with a heavy civilian toll,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement, hailing the “fundamental role” played by Egypt as a mediator.

He said that the violence had “underscored the need for a relaunch of a genuine political process between the parties,” adding that without this, “cycles of violence will be repeated.”

A ball of fire erupts from a building in Gaza City’s Rimal residential district on May 20, 2021, during an Israeli bombardment on the Hamas-controlled enclave following rocket fire (BASHAR TALEB / AFP)

Beijing also welcomed the agreement, saying China hopes there will be a “cessation of violence” and a return to peace talks.

Beijing said the international community now needs to “extend helping hands” to the region, and will commit $1 million in emergency aid and a further $1 million to UN relief efforts for the Palestinians.

It will also provide 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Palestinians.

“China welcomes the ceasefire between both sides in the Palestine-Israel conflict, and hopes the relevant parties will earnestly implement the ceasefire and cessation of violence,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference.

“The international community should promote the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel, and achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestine issue on the basis of the two state solution,” he added.

Beijing — which has invited the two sides to hold direct talks in China — has also used the conflict as an opportunity to hit out at the US, including criticizing Washington for earlier blocking a joint statement on the crisis at the UN Security Council.

Zhao said that China was willing to work with the international community to “promote further easing of the tense Palestine-Israel situation.”

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