French FM questions details of EU settlement guidelines

Laurent Fabius asserts text needs careful review, changes where needed without altering fundamental approach.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius meets with bib 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius meets with bib 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The EU settlement guidelines need to be looked at carefully and changed where they go beyond what was intended, without altering the overall spirit, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday.
Speaking at a Jerusalem press conference at the end of his two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Fabius said this issue was brought up repeatedly during his meetings with Israeli ministers, who raised specific problems about details of the guidelines.
The text of the guidelines, which put into writing EU policy restricting any EU financial cooperation with Israeli entities over the Green Line and calling for Israel to sign a territorial clause limiting the scope of any future agreement with the EU to the pre-1967 lines, was not a change from EU policies and was meant to signal that there were ramifications for continued settlement policy, he indicated.
However, Fabius added without going into details, his interlocutors raised specific points that needed to be looked into. “My conclusion is that we have to look closer and see if there were things that were not intended, and make changes where changes need to be made without changing the overall approach.”
According to diplomatic officials, this issue was raised in nearly every one of Fabius’s meetings in Jerusalem. In addition to meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the French foreign minister also met on Saturday night and Sunday with President Shimon Peres, International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition head Shelly Yacimovich.
Lapid asked Fabius to encourage the European Union to change its decision not to fund research over the Green Line, or at least to freeze this step during the current negotiations with the Palestinians.
Yacimovich criticized the European Union’s sanctions, saying that the correct way to intervene was through positive, encouraging steps.
Israeli diplomatic officials said that this issue was consistently being raised with European leaders at the highest levels to “mitigate possible damage.” Israel has said it will be unable to sign onto the lucrative 80 billion euro Horizon 2020 R&D program if the guidelines are not modified somewhat. Israel is currently trying to get European political leaders to lobby for such a move at the upcoming informal EU foreign ministers meeting in early September.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.