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Gaza/Ukraine: EU to debate calling for Pauses

BRUSSELS: EU leaders will on Thursday debate calling for “pauses” in Israel’s war with Hamas to get aid into Gaza, as the bloc weighs how to respond to another conflict as fighting rages in Ukraine.

The European Union has struggled for both unity and influence in the face of the crisis that has engulfed the Middle East.

The surge in bloodshed has stretched Europe’s attention at a time of rising doubts about the West’s ability to keep supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

The 27-nation bloc has long been split between more pro-Palestinian members such as Ireland and Spain, and staunch backers of Israel including Germany and Austria.

But there has been less consensus on urging any halt to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which the Hamas-run health ministry says has killed over 7,000 people.

After days of negotiations, the latest draft statement for the summit, seen by AFP, calls for “humanitarian corridors and pauses”.

That was updated from an earlier draft that had the formulation “a humanitarian pause” so that aid can reach civilians in Gaza.

That statement — which could still change when leaders meet in Brussels — falls short of demands from the United Nations for a “ceasefire”.

Germany, wary of urging a more definitive halt that could tie Israel’s hands, had argued for the call to be humanitarian “windows” or “pauses” in the plural.

“We feel that civilians must be protected always and everywhere.

We will have a good decision,” European Council chief Charles Michel said just ahead of the summit’s start.

Diplomats from some EU nations warn that delays over finding the right words as the death toll mounts are hitting the bloc’s global standing and leaving it flailing in the face of developments.

“We can feel that some in the world are using the circumstances to try to rally a part of the international community to attack the European Union,” Michel said.