VICE PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Tony Blair is not performing his duty: the cancellation of his visit to Gaza is another sign of his lack of determination and commitment
Rome, 16th July 2008
It's a very negative signal that the International Quartet Envoy Tony Blair's planned trip to the Gaza was cancelled yesterday, Tuesday 15th July, following what was described as "specific security threats that made the visit impossible".
As a delegation of the European Parliament we visited, last June, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem. Our visit in Gaza was perfectly coordinated by UNRWA, and we didnít feel any sort of insecurity, but only despair and responsibility looking at the living conditions of the Palestinian population under an illegal siege (donít worry we also went to see the danger and the damages of the rockets fired on Sderot).
I really hope that the Israeli authorities' pressures or other forces are not behind this decision by Tony Blair not to go to Gaza Strip, using the threat of security in order to prevent to witness the disaster of the blockade.
Palestinians, both in West Bank and in Gaza Strip, deplored the fact that Tony Blair had never visited the Strip, despite of the duties related to his role as Quartet Representative that include mobilizing international assistance to the Palestinians, working closely with donors and others, as well as helping to implement plans and concrete projects aimed to promote Palestinian economic development.
Those projects are fundamental and urgent in order to ensure as soon as possible a better and more healthy life for Palestinians, and especially those aimed to solve the increasing pollution in Gaza Strip due to the malfunctioning of the drainage system, such as in Beit Lahya, in northern Gaza Strip where Mr Tony Blair was due to be yesterday.
We saw sewage waters running freely and visibly through the streets of Gaza city and other cities of the Strip and ending up in the sea: any delay in this sense will be a tragedy not only for all the Palestinians living there, but also for the Israelis, sharing the same and polluted Mediterranean Sea.
For this reason Tony Blair's visit could be -and it can of course be in the future- a fundamental opportunity to improve the living conditions for Palestinians in Gaza, showing that they are not alone, giving at same time a signal of hope for the unity and the reconciliation of the Palestinian people and Territory and finally also demonstrating, instead of a double standards policy, an impartial attitude by the International Community towards this conflict, starting concretely to end the collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza represented by the Israeli siege and closures for people and goods.
Further information: Luisa Morgantini, + 39 348 39 21 465; Office: + 39 06 69 95 02 17