Palestinians Welcome “Friendly Guidance and Professional Oversight” from EU as Rafah Crossing Opens

Press Releases
November 25, 2005

Today, November 25, 2005, a ceremony presided over by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was held at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza to mark its opening. The crossing will begin operating tomorrow, November 26, 2005, with the deployment of the European Union’s Border Assistance Mission (EU-BAM), headed by Gen. Pietro Pistolese.

The opening ceremony follows an exchange of letters between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the European Union (EU) yesterday, November 24, 2005, and the conclusion of the “Agreed Arrangement on the European Union Border Assistance Mission at the Rafah Crossing Point on the Gaza-Egypt Border” on November 23, 2005.

Commenting on the decision to invite the EU to serve as a third party at the Rafah border crossing, Dr. Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator, said, “We welcome the friendly guidance and professional oversight of our European colleagues and hope that the experience of working together on the Rafah crossing will enrich and strengthen the relationship between the Palestinians and our European friends.”

“Opening a Palestinian-run border crossing is not the end of the story, but it is a step in the right direction,” he continued. “We’d also like to see third party intervention to stop Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and to prevent Israel’s unilateral attempts to seal off Jerusalem [from the rest of the West Bank],” he said.

Under the terms of the Agreed Arrangement, the EU-BAM will “actively monitor, verify and evaluate PA performance with regard to the implementation of the APRC [Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing].” The Agreed Arrangement also stipulates that, “The EU-BAM shall contribute to Palestinian capacity building in all aspects of border control and customs operation.”

“It’s important to note that the EU’s role does not include law enforcement, as the Israelis had hoped,” stressed Dr. Erekat. “This will be a Palestinian-run border crossing in every sense. But we expect the experience of European co-operation to be mutually beneficial for all involved. There is much Palestinians can learn from Europe’s long history of border management. And there is much the Europeans can learn about the reality on the ground here by maintaining a third party monitoring presence at the Rafah crossing.”

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