European and Arab foreign ministers failed to jointly endorse the unilateral
Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations during a meeting in Cairo on
Tuesday, calling instead for a negotiated two-state solution.
But when it
came to talking about obstacles to the peace process, the European and Arab
ministers blamed only the West Bank settlements and Israel’s security
Palestinians had hoped the Cairo Declaration on the Middle East,
which the European Union and the Arab League released after the meeting, would
endorse their November 29 bid before the General Assembly to upgrade their UN
status to that of a non-member state.
Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas said in Cairo that Arab League ministers had pledged to support
the UN bid. He added that Egypt was lobbying other countries to stand behind the
Abbas spoke during a joint press conference with Egyptian
Foreign Minister Mohamed Amru. While in Cairo, he also met with Egyptian
President Mohamed Morsi to discuss the matter.
The Palestinians already
have the majority necessary to pass their resolution in the General Assembly,
which would be viewed as de facto recognition of statehood. But they want to
secure the support of Europe, which remains divided on the
Israel believes that at least six EU nations will stand with the
Palestinians: Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, Spain, Belgium and Ireland. Separately
China, which often supports the Palestinians at the UN, said Tuesday it would do
so in this case as well.
In the Cairo Declaration, the EU and Arab League
ministers called for the “removal of all obstacles that prevent an immediate
resumption of negotiations between the parties as well as the resolution of all
issues related [to] achieving a solution of two states living side-by-side in
peace and security.”
But the portion addressing the Israeli- Palestinian
conflict spoke only of Israeli actions as obstacles to peace.
ministers stressed their common position that Israeli settlements and the
separation barrier built anywhere in the occupied Palestinian territory are
illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace,” the
Israel has blamed the failed peace process on the
Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate directly. It has argued that by turning
unilaterally to the UN, the Palestinians are seeking to circumvent negotiations
and separate statehood from the peace process, a move Jerusalem believes would
endanger the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution.
At the Cairo
press conference, Abbas said, “Our hearts are open to the Americans and
He added that he had assured both countries, which oppose the
bid, that “when we obtain the status of non-member in the UN, we would be
prepared to discuss the peace negotiations, to talk about six or seven core
He also claimed that Hamas supported his UN efforts, and
reiterated his commitment to the right of return for Palestinian refugees to
their former homes inside Israel on the basis of UN Resolution
Israeli settlement building is a unilateral act that violates
agreements signed with the PLO, Abbas added.
“Why is going to the UN a
unilateral act, when there are more than 500,000 Israelis in the West Bank (and
east Jerusalem) in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention?” he
Arab League ministers at the conference thanked the EU for taking
a harsher stance on settlements by committing to implementing existing
legislation and bilateral arrangements against settlement products.
and Arab ministers called on Israel to “take positive steps to enable
sustainable economic development in the Palestinian territories, including in
Area C and in the Gaza Strip.”
They reaffirmed that they “did not
recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those agreed by both
parties, including with regard to Jerusalem.”
The declaration also
expressed concern about settler violence but did not mention Palestinian
violence or Hamas.
When it came to the topic of Palestinian-launched
rockets into southern Israel, the EU and Arab ministers said only that they were
concerned by the recent escalation in and around Gaza.
They agreed that
they would continue to support Palestinian state-building but said they were
worried by the PA’s financial crisis.
The declaration also affirmed its
support for past initiatives, agreements and understandings, including the Arab
Peace Initiative and the road map.
Although EU and Arab League officials
often work together, the first gathering of this size took place only in 2008.
This was the second such conference. A third is planned for 2014.