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Bildt Travels To Middle East

Published måndag 5 januari 2009 kl 11.52

As the world’s focus is once again on the conflict in the Middle East, Sweden’s Foreign Minister is part of a delegation which has travelled to the region to try to broker peace between Israel and Hamas.

Carl Bildt travelled to Egypt together with EU collegues just after the Israeli tanks had started rolling over the border into Gaza.

Their aim, to stop the fighting and get humanitarian aid into the civilian Palestinians living in the Gaza strip.

”We are travelling from capital city to capital city”, Bildt says, ”meeting all the important actors who will play a role in any package which will mean a ceasefire for the region.”

He adds that he wants to find out what exactly the Israeli government wants from the invasion, saying that the aims of the mission have been described differently by different Israeli government spokespeople.

Bildt is in the Middle East as part of an EU delegation, including government representatives from France, the Czech Republic and Sweden. The past, current and future presidents of the European Union. Although the EU hasn’t played a major role in the Middle East conflict in the past, Bildt says he is hopeful that will soon change.

He adds that the EU can play a bigger role today than in the past, but much depends on the attitudes of the United States and of governments in the Arab world, who he says have contributed to the current problems by supporting different political fractions in Palestine.

Reactions here in Sweden to the Israeli offensive in Gaza have been swift. Leader of Sweden’s largest political party, the opposition Social Democrats, Mona Sahlin condemned the invasion, calling the violence ”unproportional” and demanding that Israel re-starts peace talks. She also called for Hamas’ rocket attacks and what she called ”terror against Israel” to be stopped immediately.

Left Party Leader Lars Ohly was also highly critical of Israel’s invasion, claiming the invasion was ”turning the world’s biggest prison camp, Gaza, into the world’s biggest graveyard”,

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was more reserved in his remarks, in a short statement he called for an immediate ceasefire, and called on Gaza’s borders to be opened to allow humanitarian aid into the region, and for Hamas to stop its rocket attacks on Israel.

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