December 30, 2008 / 10:32 PM / 10 years ago

EU calls for permanent ceasefire in Gaza Strip

PARIS (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers joined international calls Tuesday for an immediate and lasting cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Gaza.

The EU said in a statement after a meeting in Paris called to discuss the violence that food, medical aid and fuel should be delivered to Gaza, those injured in Israeli military action should be evacuated and humanitarian workers should be allowed access to the area.

“There must be an unconditional halt to rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel and an end to Israeli military action,” it said.

The statement echoed a call for a cease-fire from the United Nations Security Council and the “Quartet” of Middle East peacebrokers, which includes the United States and Russia.

The EU said a delegation of European ministers would travel to the Middle East shortly.

“There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Gaza or elsewhere,” the statement said.

Earlier French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the EU would be ready to help the process and he denied there were disagreements among European ministers over the need for action.

“We all know that this fighting has to stop and we are ready, the European Union is ready, to take part in this peace and the return to negotiations,” he told TF1 television.

The ministers left the meeting without talking to the press.

France, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU until Wednesday, has proposed a 48-hour cease-fire to allow aid into the Gaza Strip.

Israel has said it is willing to consider ways to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Paris Thursday and may fly to Israel Monday for further talks, although that visit has not been firmly set, an Israeli official said.

Reporting by James Mackenzie

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