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The AP Interview: EU President Michel warns about spillover of Israel-Hamas struggle into Europe

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BRUSSELS — European Union chief Charles Michel on Friday warned that the Israel-Hamas struggle may create a surge in refugees heading for Europe, elevating the danger of spurring on anti-migrant forces, deepening divisions and inflaming tensions between supporters of Israel and the Palestinians.

“Look, if there can be extra difficulties on the regional stage, we might have instantly enormous difficulties on the European soil due to the refugees,” EU Council President Michel stated in an interview with The Related Press.

“And we all know how it may be utilized by some political teams throughout the EU to gasoline some controversies and to make the EU extra fragmented,” he stated, including it may improve polarization on probably the most contentious points in lots of European nations.

“We all know that in our societies throughout the EU, there are additionally completely different emotions, feelings amongst our residents, and this is essential to not import throughout the EU the tragic battle,” he stated. “This isn’t the time to have extra issue as a result of we are going to import within the EU conflicts.”

One week forward of the EU-US summit in Washington with President Biden, the 2 longstanding trans-Atlantic companions have been caught up within the more and more frantic diplomatic efforts to forestall the struggle from escalating.

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On Friday, Israel warned civilians residing within the northern a part of Gaza, which has a inhabitants of greater than 1 million folks, to depart the world, forward of an anticipated floor offensive by the Israeli navy, in response to a stunning and brutal assault by Hamas practically per week in the past.

To have a direct impression because the battle round Gaza intensifies, Michel known as for elevated rapid outreach to nations like Egypt, which might be a pure level of reception for these fleeing neighboring Gaza.

It might imply that worldwide support must improve.

Nonetheless, Egypt says it already hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees and has signaled its reluctance to take many extra from Gaza.

“You possibly can think about for such a rustic with some monetary and financial challenges what it means. It signifies that we have to have interaction with these nations to see what we will do with the intention to help the initiatives taken by some leaders within the area, taken by some in United Nations to permit some hall, humanitarian hall,” he stated.

By September, the latest EU figures confirmed 194,269 migrants had arrived by irregular routes in 2023. The bloc is already deeply divided on how one can cope with the brand new arrivals, between those who help Brussels’ initiatives targeted on distributing migrants between members in an act of solidarity and people, like Hungary or Poland, whose far-right governments flatly refuse any shared duty for migrants arriving in different member states.

Michel additionally known as for diplomats and authorities officers to fan out throughout the area in an effort to include the disaster.

“It’s so vital to have interaction with the nations within the area to ensure that regardless of all of the variations on many subjects. We attempt to do our greatest to ensure that we is not going to face a regional escalation, which might be a tragedy first for the area, for the folks within the area, but in addition for the world,” he stated.

On this, the EU needs to be in excellent lockstep with america. Having expressed its full help for Israel after the Hamas assaults, the EU is now additionally calling on Jerusalem to make sure any navy actions in and round Gaza stay throughout the bounds of worldwide regulation.

“The frequent place is making very clear that we consider in worldwide regulation. We consider on this concept that the elemental rules that should be revered, revered, together with when there’s such a tragedy,” he stated.

Michel stated he absolutely understood the passions concerned when individuals are on the receiving finish of an assault just like the one from Hamas. He referred again to his time as prime minister of Belgium when it was hit by terror assaults in 2016 which killed 33 folks in joint airport and subway bombings.

He stated it was no completely different for France round that point when it was additionally attacked by Islamic State militants, leaving greater than 200 {dead}.

“I bear in mind very nicely that it was extraordinarily troublesome as a result of we have been shocked, extraordinarily shocked. On the identical time, I understood in a short time it was vital by no means to neglect that we’re a democratic nation and we should defend and shield the safety of our residents with democratic instruments,” he stated, indicating that Israel now faces the identical problem.

Michel and EU Fee President Ursula von der Leyen will likely be discussing the identical points at a trans-Atlantic summit in Washington subsequent Friday, when continued help for Ukraine may also be excessive on the agenda.

Questions have been raised whether or not the trans-Atlantic companions, particularly america, will be capable to preserve the identical depth of help now that Israel is one other ally in dire want.

Michel insisted that actually for the EU, it was past doubt. “You possibly can rely on me personally, but in addition on the European management to be very clear: we’re with Ukraine for so long as it takes, as a result of that is elementary for our frequent future.”

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