Mogherini urges ‘utmost restraint’ after Gaza deaths

Palestinians protesters carry a wounder protester during clashes after protests near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza Strip, 14 May 2018. [Mohammed Saber/EPA/EFE]

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday (14 May) urged “utmost restraint” after at least 37 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during protests against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

“Dozens of Palestinians, including children, have been killed and hundreds injured from Israeli fire today, during ongoing mass protests near the Gaza fence. We expect all to act with utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life,” Mogherini said in a statement.

“Israel must respect the right to peaceful protest and the principle of proportionality in the use of force. Hamas and those leading the demonstrations in Gaza must ensure that they remain strictly non-violent and must not exploit them for other means.”

Former Italian foreign minister Mogherini urged both sides to return to negotiations, saying that the European Union remained committed to its role in trying to foster peace in the region.

She warned that “any further escalation of an already extremely tense and complex situation would cause again further unspeakable sufferings to both peoples, and will make the perspective of peace and security even more remote.”

Mogherini’s statement comes amid EU divisions over how to react to US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania recently blocked an EU statement slamming the United States move, a spokesman for Czech President Milos Zeman said at the weekend.

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US President Donald Trump succeeded in dividing EU nations ahead of today’s (14 May) opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

In the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since 2014, Palestinian Health Ministry officials said 58 protesters were killed and 2,700 injured by live gunfire, tear gas or other means.

The bloodshed drew calls for restraint from some countries, including France and Britain, and stronger criticism from others, with regional power Turkey calling it “a massacre”.

The White House declined to join in urging Israel to exercise caution and pinned the blame squarely on Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who described the Israeli military’s actions as self-defence of his country’s borders.

In siding squarely with Israel, Washington put distance between itself and its European allies for the second time in a week, after angering France, Germany and others last Tuesday by abandoning an international nuclear deal with Iran.

Trump slaps Europe in the face with Iran deal pull-out

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the landmark deal curbing Iran’s nuclear programme, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany who signed the agreement published a joint statement, saying they will continue to stick by it.

In contrast to the violent scenes in Gaza, Israeli dignitaries and guests attended a ceremony in Jerusalem to open the US Embassy following its relocation from Tel Aviv.

The move fulfilled a pledge by US President Donald Trump, who in December recognized the holy city as the Israeli capital.

Netanyahu thanked Trump for “having the courage to keep your promises”.

US Senator Tim Kaine, the top Democrat on the foreign relations subcommittee that covers the region, told Reuters the situation was “tragic” and said “It’s not viewed as the US trying to solve a problem, it’s viewed as the US just stepping away from the problem, and that’s sad.”

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move that is not recognized internationally, as its “eternal and indivisible capital”.

Most countries say the status of Jerusalem – a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians – should be determined in a final peace settlement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.

Peace talks aimed a finding a two-state solution to the conflict have been frozen since 2014.

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