European foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels Monday morning to discuss the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process amid growing calls by local politicians for the member states to unilaterally recognize Palestine as a state.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini of Italy, told reporters that the topic in front of the EU council of foreign ministers is boosting the EU’s role in a renewed peace process.
“What we need is not just recognition [of a Palestinian state]. We need the building of a Palestinian state that can live next to the Israeli one in peace and security,” she said before the council meeting.
The meeting is the first one to be chaired by Mogherini who entered her post at the start of November, replacing Catherine Ashton. She immediately made a two-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, including Gaza.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiations broke down in April and have yet to be revived, although the US has been speaking with both Palestinians and Israelis about that possibility.
The frozen peace process was raised at the trilateral meeting in Amman on Thursday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Secretary of State John Kerry and King Abdullah of Jordan. Kerry also spoke with Abbas about it at a separate meeting in Amman.
Mogherini told reporters that she had been in contact with Kerry and Abbas as well as with Israeli and Jordanian diplomats in the past few days to better understand what political initiatives were under debate between the parties.
In their meeting, the foreign ministers will focus on what can be done to relaunch the peace process and what the EU’s role will be in that process, she said.
EU states are sharply divided on the question of unilateral recognition of Palestine as a step. The EU would need unanimous consensus among its member states to take such a step.
Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told reporters that he believed that such recognition should only come after a negotiated agreement for a two-state solution.
“We have to chose to avoid any unilateral steps, because the end game is clear, a two-state solution, with everyone behind it,” he said.
The question is how to reach that goal, he said. Linkevicius said he believed that the only way to do so, was through negotiations.
The UK and Germany have the same stand on this issue as Lithuania. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier explained this position to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when he met with him in Ramallah on Saturday.
But Sweden in October voted to recognize Palestine as a state. Poland and Hungary did so before they became EU member states.
Parliamentarians in the UK and Ireland held non-binding votes to recognize Palestine as a state and Spain plans to hold a non-binding vote on the matter this week. France and Denmark have also scheduled such votes.
On Sunday Netanyahu spoke with Steinmeier against European moves to unilaterally recognize Palestine as a state.
“The calls that have been coming from European countries, from European parliaments, to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state pushed peace backwards,” Netanyahu said.
“They don’t tell the Palestinians that they have to make their peace with a nation-state for the Jewish people. They just give the Palestinians a nation-state,” Netanyahu said.
Such moves give Palestinians the message that they do not need to make the concessions necessary for peace, Netanyahu said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Steinmeier on Sunday that he was concerned by attempts to link the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Israeli bilateral ties to the EU. Such efforts, Liberman said, were misguided.
It does not contribute to the stability, the normalization, or the enhancement of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, Liberman said.
Steinmeier said in reply, “Avigdor Liberman, my friend, I can promise you do not need to worry about the meeting of the EU foreign ministers. I anticipate that when we meet on Monday, we’ll speak of the hope that peace can be achieved,” he said.