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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton 390 (R).(Photo by: REUTERS/Kimmo Mantyla/Lehtikuva)
EU officially publishes settlement guidelines despite Israeli objections
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton says the directives are not meant to "prejudge" outcome of peace talks.
The European Union, as expected, published new guidelines limiting interaction with Israeli entities beyond the pre-1967 lines on Friday, with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton saying that this is in no way meant to "prejudge the outcome of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians."

The statement said that the guidelines "reiterate the long-held position that bilateral agreements with Israel do not cover the territory that came under Israel's administration in June 1967."

She said this was done now to clarify the EU position before negotiations with Israel over financial agreements that will commence in 2014.

In an apparent reference to Israel's angry reaction and claims that the EU is essentially prejudging the outcome of negotiations, Ashton said that this is not the case, and that it "has been the EU's long-held position that it will recognize changes made to the borders once agreed by both parties."

The EU , she said, is "deeply committed" to the negotiations, and fully supports US Secretary of State John Kerry's intense efforts to restart negotiations at a particularly delicate time.

Israel has said that the move at this time does serious damage to Kerry's efforts because it gives the Palestinians the impression that the Europeans back their demands that the baseline for the talks be the June 4, 1967 lines.

Ashton said that the new guidelines will not be implemented before January 1, and in the meantime she has invited Israel to hold discussions on "the territorial scope of agreements with the EU that are currently under preparation."

What this means essentially is that the two sides will try to hash out language on the "territorial clause" that both sides can live with.

The guidelines do not spell out exactly what the so called “territorial clause” on future agreements will say.

For instance, in the recently signed Open Skies aviation agreement, the territorial clause reads: “The application of this agreement is understood to be without prejudice to the status of the territories that came under Israel’s administration after June 1967.” A senior diplomatic official said this was language Israel could live with.

An example of language Jerusalem would not sign, he added, was the draft of the next stage of the Euro-Med Youth Program, which read: “This agreement will be implemented in conformity with the European Union’s position that the territories that came under Israel’s administration in June 1967 are not part of the territory of Israel.”

The discussion between the two sides will now apparently be aimed at finding a formula that both sides are comfortable with.
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