Scots MEP Heads To Gaza
During the course of his three day visit Mr Smith will meet with politicians and officials of the Arab League and Egyptian government in Cairo, and will visit Gaza itself to meet with NGOs, civic society, the international community and politicians there.
Mr Smith, who himself grew up in the Middle East, will be returning to Gaza, as he took part in an MEP delegation to Israel and Palestine in 2006. He has consistently and vocally supported the cause of peace and a two state solution, and is in favour of the suspension of the EU-Israel agreements until the state of Israel implements adequate human rights safeguards.
Speaking before the trip, Smith said:
"Having been brought up in the Middle East, it is an area that is close to my heart, which only makes it all the more painful to see so much pent up hurt and hate on every side of this interminable conflict.
"The SNP carries no torch for any of the numerous sides in the dispute and I view this delegation as a good opportunity to assess the situation in the region for myself. It staggers me that so few in the world seem to take note of what is going on there, so I hope that this visit will raise awareness of the reality of life under occupation.
"I look to other countries like Norway, Ireland, Finland and Sweden and their efforts to bring peace to troubled parts of the world and feel envy and frustration at Scotland's lack of voice. Scotland could play the same role. However, the current political set up means that the EU must be my vehicle for change.
"EU money has been key in keeping humanitarian efforts afloat and the European Union no doubt has an important role to play in encouraging dialogue between the parties. The information we will be able to obtain from this visit will be vital for us in working out the Parliament's future role in aid and negotiations.
"Sometimes it is difficult to see any hope for a resolution. Nevertheless, I will not stand by wringing my hands while watching things go from bad to worse when I have any power to change the situation for the better.
"I thank the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza for arranging this opportunity to visit the Middle East and look forward to a productive, stimulating but no doubt difficult few days."
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