EU leaders call for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Israel-Hamas war for first time

EU politicians at summit in Brussels go step further than previous pressure for ‘humanitarian pause’ in conflict

European Union leaders agreed to call for an “immediate ceasefire” in Israel’s war in Gaza for the first time, a step further than previous pressure for a “humanitarian pause” in the conflict.

EU leaders discussed the war in Gaza and Iran’s recent missile attacks on Israel, during a European Council summit in Brussels on Wednesday evening.

The leaders agreed to a call for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza, and reiterated the need for the unconditional release of all hostages taken by Hamas militants in the October 7th attacks, which started the conflict. The council also agreed to a call for “unhindered access to humanitarian aid at scale” for Palestinians.

The conclusions signed off by leaders go further than a previous statement, made following a summit last month, for “an immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable ceasefire”.

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The text agreed around a ceasefire on Wednesday was the same as draft proposals that had been circulating between countries ahead of the summit, indicating there was no major opposition to the language during the meeting.

The EU position follows a United Nations Security Council resolution passed last month to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

The EU leaders said they “strongly and unequivocally” condemned Iran’s recent drone and missile attacks on Israel but urged “all parties to exercise the utmost restraint and to refrain from any action that may increase tensions in the region”.

The council meeting agreed to move forward with plans to place sanctions on Iran around the supply of drones and missiles, which foreign affairs ministers will discuss in more detail next week.

The conclusions from the first day of the summit added the EU stood ready to work with all its partners to “avoid further escalation of tensions in the region”.

Speaking on Thursday morning, Taoiseach Simon Harris said there was a “very clear” decision that the EU would put further sanctions on Iran.

The Fine Gael leader said during the meeting he pushed for the EU to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. “I welcome the language that has been agreed around ceasefire, not pause but ceasefire, I think that is important,” he said.

Mr Harris said during the meeting of EU leaders he reiterated Ireland’s view that there was “merit” in recognising the state of Palestine.

“If you believe in a two state solution, it is useful to recognise the existence of both states, and Ireland stands ready to work with like-minded countries in terms of that recognition,” he said.

When it came to the Ukraine war the European Council agreed to urgently help bolster the country’s air defences in response to heavy Russian bombardments.

The council said there needed to be a “swift adoption” of proposals to use windfall revenues from frozen Russian assets to support Ukraine in the war.

It is understood discussions on the state of the war took up a large portion of the meeting on Wednesday evening, where concerns were expressed about the current pressure Ukraine is under on the battlefield.

Leaders also discussed current relations with Turkey, greenlighting further work on co-operation between the country and the EU to take place in a “phased, proportionate and reversible manner”.

The second day of the council summit on Thursday is debating proposed economic reforms, such as the contentious creation of a single market for capital in the EU.

Draft proposals on the topic drew opposition from Ireland and a significant number of other countries in the run-up to the meeting. The concerns centred on suggestions the EU would move to concentrate new regulatory powers in countries such as France.

“We want to see a capital markets union that respects the concerns of member states. We are not in the business of wishing to see any harmonisation to our corporate tax laws,” Mr Harris said.

“This idea of the centralisation of supervisory functions to a number of small, large markets is not in the best interests of all member states,” he said.

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