European FMs to decide on ME text

EU foreign ministers to

The 27 EU foreign ministers are scheduled to decide Tuesday on the final wording of a statement on the Middle East that may very well include European recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Efforts in Brussels on Monday to get a consensus on the text among the EU ambassadors failed, meaning the foreign ministers themselves will have to delve into the arguments over the text. One Israeli official said it was very rare for a text this substantial to reach the foreign ministerial level without prior agreement. Israel is concerned that the draft statement prejudges negotiations on Jerusalem and does not make sufficient mention of Israel's security needs. Nor does it talk about the need for a future Palestinian state to be demilitarized, or for Israel to be a Jewish state. The official said that Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is working hard to pass the statement, which is extremely problematic from an Israeli point of view. He is being supported by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Other countries behind the proposal are Ireland and Portugal. The countries that are working to amend the text and have it include more supportive statements toward Israel are Italy, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Poland. France and Germany, one official said, are somewhere in the middle, weary of the diplomatic battle that both Israel and the Palestinians have been waging across Europe over the last week. And not only in Europe. Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal was in Washington on Monday for high-level talks with US officials during which this issue was high on the agenda. Israeli officials said that they have been told by those supporting the statement that it was needed to prod Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table. Israel has waged an extensive diplomatic charge over the last week against the Swedish draft, which included intervention by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and National Security Council head Uzi Arad. Nevertheless, there was a degree of pessimism in Jerusalem Monday night about the likelihood of removing the clause calling for recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.