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EU: Half our states support settlement product labeling
By TOVAH LAZAROFF AND KHALED ABU TOAMEH
04/12/2013
EU official says EU to support more action against settlements, halt financial aid to Palestinians if peace talks fail.
 
Half of the European Union member states – 14 out of 28 – support labeling West Bank settlement products, a senior European official told Israeli reporters in Brussels on Tuesday.

His comments came on the eve of another American push to advance Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

As of press time, US Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to arrive in Israel late Wednesday night after meeting with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton in Brussels earlier in the day. Her spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post the EU was “fully behind” the current effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The EU official told Israeli reporters that the Israeli-Palestinian talks were progressing and were very serious.

His comments came amid speculation and concern in the Israeli media that the talks were floundering and would not lead to an agreement when the nine-month negotiating period ends in April.

Channel 2 reported on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority turned directly to Kerry and threatened to bolt from the talks if Israel continued with construction projects in West Bank settlements.

But the EU official had ominous words for both Israel and the Palestinians should the talks break down. He said half the EU would support further action against West Bank settlement products, and that the EU could halt its financial assistance to the Palestinians if the talks failed.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told visiting Israeli businessmen in Ramallah on Tuesday that he was committed to achieving peace and ending the conflict.

Abbas said he was committed to pursuing peace talks with Israel until the April deadline set by the US administration.

Abbas said the peace talks were aimed at establishing a Palestinian state “on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Israel has consistently rejected the idea of a twostate solution based on the pre-1967 lines, but has agreed to discuss all core issues during the negotiations.

Kerry is due to meet with Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday and with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem the next day.

Aside from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, discussions about Iran will also dominate Kerry’s conversation with Netanyahu.

The two men are at odds over the US agreeing – together with other world powers – to ease sanctions against Iran in order to secure a pledge from Tehran to dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities and remove enriched uranium from the country.

Although Netanyahu has been vocal in his opposition to the deal, he was quiet on Tuesday and did not mention Iran when he spoke at the international Bible quiz for adults in Jerusalem.

“Even though the Bible was written a long time ago, we – with our own hands – are writing the next chapters in the fascinating history of our people,” he said at the event.

“This year’s quiz centers on ‘Love your neighbor as yourself and the other is me.’ This not only includes accepting the convert and those who are different. Children who are struggling with physical or mental disabilities are part of us. Each one of them, young and old, has a soul given to him by the Almighty and we, our people, understand and feel to the depths of our heart this human partnership, this partnership and unity before God. We must break down walls, lower barriers and attain – first and foremost – unity within our people.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman will meet this week in New York with UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon and US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers.

He will also deliver a speech at the Saban Forum in Washington on Friday and meet with Kerry on Sunday. It is his first trip to the US since returning to his post as foreign minister.

Liberman arrives at the UN just after Israel agreed to reestablish ties with the UN Human Rights Council, after it received an invitation on Monday to join its Western European and Others Group in Geneva.

Kerry said of the invitation: “Israeli membership in the WEOG in Geneva is overdue, and we welcome the decision to invite Israel to join beginning January 1, 2014.”

“It goes without saying that at a time when the scourge of global anti-Semitism is on the rise, it is more important than ever for Israel to have a strong voice that can be heard everywhere,” Kerry said.

“This is a particularly welcome development as we work to end anti-Israel bias in the UN system. We will continue to speak out for our close ally, Israel, and we will continue to support efforts to normalize Israel’s treatment across the UN system as a full and equal member of the community of nations.”
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