European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini appeared to warn the US against putting forward its peace plan at this time, saying in Brussels on Monday that “given the region, any false step can be very dangerous.”
Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Brussels between the 28 EU foreign ministers and a delegation of Arab foreign ministers, Mogherini said both the EU and Arab League ministers “have dealt with the conflict long enough around our common table to know what can fly and what cannot fly, and we believe it is wise to consider what can fly and cannot fly in terms of peace plans before putting any plans on the table and avoiding any false steps.”
The Arab delegation – called the Delegation of the League of Arab States on Jerusalem, which was set up after US President Donald Trump’s decision in December to recognize the holy city as Israel’s capital – included the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian Authority. The delegation also included Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
Mogherini said the EU and the Arab countries “have a level of knowledge of the file, of the region” that “cannot be underestimated and has to be taken into consideration appropriately if we want to avoid false steps.”
The EU is adamantly opposed to Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, as is the Arab League.
“What brought us here, the ministers of the League of Arab states and the ministers of the European Union, is this concern we have about any false step on the Middle East peace process and on Jerusalem in particular,” Mogherini said.
Any false step, she said, could “strengthen radical positions, close the space for those who still want to live side by side in security and peace and could turn the conflict from a political conflict into a religious conflict, and then we will have a problem much bigger than the one we have today.”
The United States has been working on a peace plan for months. But since Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem in December, the Palestinians have been pushing for the EU to take a more active position in the peace process, claiming that the US is no longer an honest broker and is biased toward Israel’s positions.
Mogherini opened up her press conference by saying the EU and the Arab ministers are very much on the same page regarding the relaunch of the Middle East peace process.
“We have full convergence of purpose,” she said. “We have clearly seen that we see eye to eye between the European Union and its member states, and the League of Arab states and its member states, first and foremost on the need to preserve the horizon of two states as the only viable one, with Jerusalem as both the capital of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine and the need to preserve the status of the holy places.”
The ministers decided to coordinate their positions and actions, and there was a “commonality of perspectives,” Mogherini said.
The ministers also discussed the need to “use this moment to discuss the possibility to not only advance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also on the Israeli-Arab conflict, that could create an interesting incentive, or environment, to move forward,” she said.
The EU and the Arab League shared “a lot of concerns about the situation on the ground,” specifically the US decision to move the embassy and the current state of financing to UNRWA, Mogherini said.
The EU foreign ministers’ meeting with the Arab delegation follows a meeting they had last month with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and one in December with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, told the Likud faction he will travel to the US on Saturday
night for a meeting with Trump and personally thank him for his decision to open the US Embassy in Jerusalem in May to coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.
Israel is currently in contact with other countries to follow the US lead, Netanyahu said, adding that he is “convinced it is only a question of time” before other states “join the important move by the United States.”
Netanyahu said he also will discuss with Trump the need to make decisions now regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran, as well as how to prevent Iranian aggression in the region. This is important not only for Israel, but also for the US and the world, he said.