EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday said they were “extremely concerned” about recent developments in the Israeli- Palestinian diplomatic process, but did not single out for blame either side for the breakdown of the talks.
As such, a concern articulated over the last few weeks by numerous Israeli officials – that no matter what happened, if the talks broke down the Europeans would blame Israel – failed to materialize. One diplomatic official in Jerusalem said that they understand that the issue is complex, and that the Fatah-Hamas unity accord further complicates the situation, making it difficult to blame Israel for the impasse.
A statement released after the monthly meeting of the foreign ministers said that the “extensive efforts deployed in recent months must not go to waste.”
The meeting focused primarily on the Ukrainian crisis, with that issue of much greater concern to most EU countries – especially those bordering Russia and Ukraine, as well as the former Iron Curtain countries – than the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The EU statement did, however, seem to contain a warning to Israel not to expand settlements, reflecting long-standing EU policy.
“The EU calls on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid any unilateral action which may further undermine peace efforts and the viability of a twostate- solution, such as continued settlement expansion,” the statement read. “The European Union will continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.”
No specific parallel warning to the Palestinians to refrain from unilateral actions, such as applying to international organizations, treaties or conventions, was contained in the statement.
According to the EU foreign ministers, “a negotiated two-state solution remains the best way to resolve the conflict once and for all. The EU regrets that despite US efforts, greater progress has not been made by the parties to date in the talks.”
The EU reiterated its willingness to give both Israel and a future Palestinian state a “Special Privileged Partnership,” which will ensure unprecedented economic, political and security support in the event that a final status agreement is reached. It urged the parties to use the coming weeks “to find the common ground and political strength needed to resume this process and make the necessary bold decisions.”
Regarding Fatah-Hamas unity, the statement said that the EU has “consistently supported intra-Palestinian reconciliation on clear and certain terms.”
The statement said the EU will continue its support – including direct financial support – for a new Palestinian government “composed of independent figures” that commits to the principle of non-violence, achieving a two-state solution and accepting previous agreements and obligations, “including Israel’s legitimate right to exist.”
“The EU’s engagement with a new Palestinian government will be based on its adherence to these principles and commitments,” the statement read.