Plea for EU to act over Gaza

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis returned from a tour of the Middle East and urged the European Union yesterday to take a more prominent role in trying to ease tension in the area, in the wake of armed clashes in Gaza. «The governments of Europe should proceed today in a coordinated effort to deal with the crisis,» Bakoyannis told MPs in Parliament. «Weakened leaders with honest goals in the Middle East are being forced to deal with all kinds of difficult problems,» she added. Bakoyannis met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday as part of her tour of the region, which included visits to Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Abbas appointed former Finance Minister Salam Fayyad as the Palestinian Authority’s new prime minister of an emergency government yesterday, one day after dissolving the Hamas-led coalition. The move comes amid political upheaval in Gaza, where Hamas gunmen have wrestled power from their Fatah rivals. «We have reached an explosive point,» the foreign minister said. «We are not far from this becoming a full-blown conflict.» Bakoyannis also assured deputies that there are no plans for Greece to be included in a missile defense system that the US wants to install in Eastern Europe nor will the government ask to be part of the program. The missile system, which includes interceptor rockets that will be placed in Poland, has been a cause of friction between the USA and Russia and was at the center of talks at a NATO meeting in Brussels yesterday. Bakoyannis said that the issue should be discussed at a NATO-Russia level so Moscow’s concerns about the program could be allayed. NATO ordered its military experts to draw up plans for a possible short-range missile defense system that would protect countries on the alliance’s southern flank, including Greece. The installation in East Europe would protect most of Europe from the threat of a long-range attack from Iran or elsewhere in the Middle East but would leave Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and parts of Romania exposed.

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