EU: set to increase efforts in Middle East peace process

'We’ve been waiting already for several months for the American initiative and if one is not forthcoming, then the European Union will have to take the initiative,' said France's foreign minister

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

European foreign ministers strongly rejected calls by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to follow US president Donald Trump’s example and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Opposition from across the spectrum came as Netanyahu made the first official trip to the EU by a sitting Israeli premier in 22 years.

One of Israel’s closest ally – the Czech Republic – warned that Trump’s decision was bad for peace efforts, while France said that Jerusalem’s status could be agreed only in a final deal, between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Netanyahu called on governments in the EU to back a US peace initiative, despite the fact that Trump has yet to reveal any details.

Making it clear that the EU will not be writing a blank cheque for an unseen Trump peace plan, France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, urged Washington to disclose what was being drawn up by Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor.

“We’ve been waiting already for several months for the American initiative and if one is not forthcoming, then the European Union will have to take the initiative,” Le Drian warned.

Arriving for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Netanyahu said Trump’s move made peace in the Middle East possible “because recognising reality is the substance of peace, the foundation of peace”. He said all, or most, European countries would move their embassies to Jerusalem and recognise it as Israel’s capital, though there is no evidence that any European country is preparing to do so.

 Benjamin Netanyahu and Federica Mogherini meet in Brussels. She told him the EU would continue to recognise the ‘international consensus’ on Jerusalem (Photo: Rex)
Benjamin Netanyahu and Federica Mogherini meet in Brussels. She told him the EU would continue to recognise the ‘international consensus’ on Jerusalem (Photo: Rex)

The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, reiterated the bloc’s commitment to a two-state solution, telling Netanyahu that it would continue to recognise the “international consensus” on Jerusalem. The EU would increase its peace efforts and hold talks with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, next month, she added.

Palestinian officials have called on Europe to take a greater role in the moribund peace process after the US president’s move, which brought about protests across the Middle East and accusations that the US had abdicated its role as an “honest” mediator.

Netanyahu’s European visit came as Abbas travelled to Istanbul and Cairo to meet Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and the Turkish president, Tayyip Recep Erdoğan, to rally support ahead of an emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation in Turkey this week.

Palestinians are calling on the 57-member OIC – which will convene on Wednesday – to make its own recognition of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

Arab states last week condemned Trump’s Jerusalem decision and vowed to press international bodies to take action against it, without announcing any concrete measures. 

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