Irish FM pushes EU involvement in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

"We simply cannot wait for the US to take an initiative on their own,'' Simon Coveney told a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

By REUTERS
September 9, 2017 09:00
2 minute read.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Estonia, September 2017

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Estonia, September 2017 . (photo credit: REUTERS/INTS KALNINS)

 
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Israelis and Palestinians will face more unrest over the next year without a revival of a long-fractured Middle East peace process that the European Union must be part of, Ireland's foreign minister said on Friday (September 8).

Simon Coveney, who met Israeli and Palestinian leaders less than a month after taking up his post in June, is leading the charge to involve the EU in a fresh attempt at peace talks and overcome divisions that have weakened the bloc's influence.

Speaking to EU foreign ministers at a meeting on Middle East policy in Tallinn on Thursday, Coveney said the bloc had a duty to make its voice heard in any new U.S. initiative as the Palestinians' biggest aid donor and Israel's top trade partner.



"My concern is that it will be a much more difficult political challenge in a year's time or in two years' time," Coveney told Reuters.



"If you look at cycles of violence in Gaza, for example, without intervention and new initiatives in my view, we are heading there again," he said, describing the Israel-Palestinian situation as an "open sore" that could erupt at any time and adding that EU governments had to pull together and keep the focus on a two-state solution.



The politician has also met Jason Greenblatt, Trump's Middle East envoy, and said it was crucial that the EU sought to influence US plans that are being drawn up by Greenblatt and Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.



Coveney said the European Union had a right to be heard because EU governments and the European Commission spend 600 million euros ($724 million) a year on aid to the Palestinians and on projects with Israel.



"We cannot simply wait for the US to take an initiative on their own, we should be supportive of them and helping them to shape it and design it in a way that is likely to have international community support," he said, although he added he still did not know what the US proposals would look like.



Hurdles for the European Union include its range of positions, ranging from Germany's strong support for Israel to Sweden's 2014 decision to officially recognise the state of Palestine, something Ireland considered three years ago.



The EU aims to hold a high-level meeting with Israel to broaden trade and other economic links later this year, although a date is still pending. It would be the first such meeting since 2012

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