EU, Israel call 'time out' in upgrade talks

Discussion will resume after the military op in the Gaza Strip if there is a "favorable atmosphere."

ramiro cibrian-uzal 88 (photo credit: )
ramiro cibrian-uzal 88
(photo credit: )
The EU and Israel are taking a "time-out" in discussions on upgrading their relations, with the EU's ambassador to Israel saying the discussion will resume after the military operation in the Gaza Strip if there is a "favorable atmosphere." Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal defined a "favorable atmosphere" as opening the crossings into Gaza, economic development in Gaza, and an effort to promote dialogue. The ambassador, in a briefing with reporters, said that the decision to put the discussion on hold was a mutual one, with the Israeli officials in the Foreign Ministry too busy now dealing with various aspects of the crisis in Gaza to delve into the upgrade discussions. Senior Foreign Ministry officials confirmed that Israel had asked for a postponement of talks until after the fighting stops in the Strip. The EU's foreign ministers in December approved a significant upgrade in the union's diplomatic relationship with Israel, despite Palestinian opposition and some calls in Europe that this should be linked to developments on the ground. The decision called for ad hoc summit meetings between Israel's prime minister and all EU heads of government, something that has never taken place before. It also called for Israel's foreign minister to meet together with all 27 EU foreign ministers three times a year. It called for a strategic dialogue to discuss issues such as Iran, the diplomatic process and Syria. It also called for the inclusion of Israel in EU peacekeeping forces, and for an EU commitment to help Israel better integrate into UN agencies. Cibrian-Uzal said the Israel-EU bilateral relations were connected to the Middle East conflict, and it was clear "that business can't continue as usual" during a period of war. The ambassador said both sides would determine how "long and deep the time-out is," but stressed that this was not a sanction against Israel. He said he hoped the crisis would have a "favorable aftermath" that allowed for the upgrading process to continue. Senior Foreign Ministry officials said it was clear Israel would continue with the diplomatic process with the Palestinian Authority, and as such did not fear that the EU - despite the hostile public opinion in some European countries - would impose any sanctions on Israel after the fighting in Gaza ended.