(Communicated by the Media Advisor to Vice Premier Peres)

Vice Premier Shimon Peres and EU Special Representative to the Middle East Peace Process Marc Otte met this afternoon (Wednesday, 23 November) to officially mark the conclusion of the agreement on third party mechanism – the EU Border Assistance Mission (EU-BAM) at the Rafah Crossing Point on the Gaza-Egypt border. Vice Premier Peres, who led the Israeli delegation in the negotiations on this issue, handed an official letter to Otte inviting the EU to be the third party at the Rafah crossing point on the Gaza-Egypt border. 

This formal agreement on the third party mechanism follows the conclusion of the Agreed Principles for the Rafah Crossing between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority of 16 November 2005, and outlines the mechanism for the deployment of the EU-BAM at Rafah.

"This is a document that ends the withdrawal from Gaza and opens a new chapter for the peace process’s continuation," Peres told Otte. "What happened in Gaza is a pilot plan. Without this document, we would be disengaged from Gaza but Gaza would not be engaged in a new life. It opens up Gaza.

"This document is also important for the relationship between Europe and  the Middle East in general, and Israel in particular. The newly formed European role and responsibility have been accepted by all parties concerned – Israel, the Palestinians, the Quartet, and the world. This is a paper of commitment, of hope. The government elected will have to continue the peace process. The precedent of European participation will help us overcome other difficulties in a creative manner and with the contribution of all parties. I am glad we can offer this document to continue the road of peace.

"…I want to thank you and Javier Solana, who represent the EU, and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is presiding [over the EU presidency] for your contribution, your help, your participation."