Speech by President von der Leyen at the International Humanitarian Conference for the Civilian Population in Gaza
President Macron, cher Emmanuel,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We all condemn the massacre perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October. We all call for the release of hostages. And we all have to protect and save civilians in Gaza. We have to protect lives and preserve humanity. In this context, let me present what our contribution so far is, and where we want to work more intensively with you.
The European Commission knows Gaza very well. For decades, together with the Member States, we have been working with the people in Gaza, we have been one the largest donors to the Palestinian people. Of course, this includes UNRWA – Monsieur le Commissaire général. So, these very close ties that we have established with the people of Gaza pay off today because this increases the possibility to coordinate and to answer the needs. We have started, as European Commission, to immediately work on this humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. And in the run-up to this Conference, we have quadrupled the humanitarian support for Gaza and the West Bank, but it is mostly for Gaza, to up to EUR 100 million.
And we have launched logistical support to Egypt. Egypt has designated Al-Arish airport in the north of Sinai as a logistical hub. We are working to support and increase the logistical capabilities of this hub. As you said Mr President, we have launched a humanitarian air bridge. So far, eight flights have been completed, carrying more than 370 tonnes of medicines, water and sanitary items. And we are preparing flights on almost a daily basis. We made a good experience by establishing a coordination cell with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent. Donations should be channelled through this platform, to ensure optimum coordination. In parallel, we are reinforcing the local logistical capacity of the Egyptian Red Crescent, for instance with refrigerated mobile storage, and by sending our logistics personnel on the ground.
Most of our cargos have already reached Gaza by truck, through the Rafah border crossing. But as almost everyone said here, the volumes remain too small to match the massive humanitarian needs. So, while we fully support to increase the capacity of aid delivered through Rafah – and this is our first priority –, we also need to look urgently at additional routes. It was called for: More than one entry point. This is why we very much welcome and work very closely with President Nikos Christodoulides from Cyprus to establish a maritime corridor. I think that this would guarantee a sustained, regulated and robust flow of aid. The European Commission fully supports with all the logistics and possibilities that we have. We will, of course, continue to help evacuate injured Palestinians who received medical assistance in Egypt. This also includes providing medicines and medical equipment to Egypt.
This humanitarian effort goes hand in hand with the work to avoid a spillover in the region. Therefore, we are also working to give strong support to the region. On Tuesday, I discussed with King Abdullah of Jordan, during his visit to Brussels, a new economic and financial package to further strengthen Jordan. And I also discussed with President El-Sisi how Europe can work, strengthen and intensify the partnership that we have with Egypt. There is a whole comprehensive package here. This is for the immediate but also for the mid and long term, to stabilise the region and the most important actors in the region.
Finally, we also think that, as we have to deal with the urgency of today, we must make the effort to think about tomorrow. How to break the current spiral of violence. And how hope can be re-established for Israelis and Palestinians. For that, they need a political perspective. And this perspective is the two-state solution. And we have to work intensively on this. Of course, it is Israelis and Palestinians who will, in the very end, have to agree on a way forward. But we, as part of an international effort, must also contribute, in very close coordination with our friends and partners.
Thank you very much, Mr President.