European Union foreign ministers did not officially respond to US President Donald Trump’s peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians at their monthly meeting in Brussels on Monday.
Several ministers asked that the Trump plan be an official agenda item in next month’s EU Foreign Council meeting, with written conclusions.
“We had an exchange of views about the Middle East peace process,” Josep Borrell, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs, said at the end of the meeting. “We briefly discussed how best to relaunch a political process that is acceptable to both parties and how best to defend internationally agreed parameters of equal rights and international law.”
The EU initially reacted to the Trump plan right after its release nearly three weeks ago, calling for a two-state solution based on past UN resolutions. The Trump plan allows for a Palestinian state on 70% of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as land Israel would swap, while Israel would annex the other 30% of the West Bank, including all settlements and the Jordan Valley.
Borrell at the time threatened that any Israeli moves toward annexation “would not go unchallenged.”
The EU foreign policy chief answered a question about that statement in Monday’s press conference, at the end of the foreign ministers’ meeting, saying: “It was a warning saying we cannot accept an annexation that from our understanding” defies international law.
The EU is sensitive to the issue of annexation beyond Israel, with an EU source expressing concern about the message applying Israeli law to the West Bank could send to Russia, which annexed Crimea, or Turkey, which occupies Northern Cyprus. The EU currently has sanctions against Russia due to its annexation of Crimea.
Jerusalem spent the days prior to Monday’s meeting fighting a possible EU condemnation of a Trump plan that could have included a call for a stronger European response. The Israeli argument was that condemning the plan will discourage the Palestinians from returning to the table for negotiations with Israel. Diplomats said even some Arab states did not reject the plan.
Israeli diplomats also urged the countries in which they are stationed to oppose a Luxembourg-led initiative to have the EU recognize a Palestinian state.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn held an event a day before the EU Foreign Council meeting with his counterparts from France, Portugal, Finland, Spain, Belgium, Malta and Slovenia to try to secure their support.
Israel has often relied on Eastern European states to block past EU foreign-policy moves it opposes.
Hungary led the opposition to a draft of an EU statement opposing the Trump plan earlier this month, which was not released. Several countries expressed misgivings about the language used that could antagonize the US or be viewed as threatening Israel.