EU reaffirms support to two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian dispute

The European Union assured President Mahmoud Abbas it supported his ambition to have East Jerusalem as capital of a Palestinian state
European High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – Photo: Yves Herman/REUTERS
23/01/2018
13:13
Reuters
Robin Emmott
-A +A

On Monday, the European Union assured President of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas it supported his ambition to have East Jerusalem as capital of a Palestinian state, in the bloc's latest rejection of the U.S. President's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

At a meeting in Brussels with EU foreign ministers, Abbas repeated his call for East Jerusalem as capital as he urged EU governments to recognize a state of Palestine immediately, arguing that this would not disrupt negotiations with Israel on a peace settlement for the region.

While Abbas made no reference to the U.S. President's move on Jerusalem or U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's visit to the city, his presence at the EU headquarters in Brussels was seized on by European officials as a chance to restate opposition to the decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

"I want to reassure President Abbas of the firm commitment of the European Union to the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states," Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission in the Juncker Commission, said while calling on those involved in the process to speak and act "wisely", with a sense of responsibility.

Moreover, Mogherini said she still wanted to work with the United States on Middle East peace talks and she had discussed ways to restart them late last year with Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

She played down the timing of the vice president's visit to Israel when Abbas was in Brussels, saying it was a coincidence.

Abbas also struck a more diplomatic tone than in his recent public remarks, including earlier this month when he said he would only accept a broad, internationally-backed panel to broker any peace talks with Israel.

"We are keen on continuing the way of negotiations," Abbas said. "We are determined to reunite our people and our land."

In another gesture of support, EU foreign ministers discussed whether to increase the EU's aid to the Palestinian Authority, after the United States said last week it would withhold about half the initial aid it planned to give the U.N. agency that serves the Palestinians. No decisions were taken yet Abbas' call for the European Union to immediately and officially recognize the state of Palestine won little support in the lunch meeting, diplomats said.

It should be noted that while nine EU governments including Sweden and Poland already recognize Palestine, the 28-nation bloc says such recognition must come as part of a peace settlement.

Only Slovenia has recently raised the possibility of recognizing the state of Palestine. A parliamentary committee there is due to consider the issue on January 31, but it remains unclear when the parliament could recognize Palestine.

That reflects the European Union's dual role as the Palestinians' biggest aid donor and Israel's biggest trade partner, even if EU governments reject Israeli settlements on land Israel has occupied since a 1967 war, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

The European Union also wants the Palestinians to remain open to a U.S.-led peace plan, expected to be presented soon by Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President's Middle East envoy and Jared Kushner, senior adviser

Abbas said there was "no contradiction between recognition (of Palestine) and the resumption of (peace) negotiations." 

Read the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini's full statement

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