Saturday

26th Sep 2020

Tension, confusion behind EU facade on Palestine

Hostility toward foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, confusion over what the Palestinians will ask for and how major EU countries will react marked behind-closed-doors talks of EU foreign ministers in Poland.

Briefing press in the town of Sopot on Saturday (3 September) after the talks on Friday, Ashton said there is a "strong EU position" and a "common belief" that the Middle East conflict can only be solved via Arab-Israeli negotiations.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Ashton and Sikorski indicated that EU countries will not reach a common position before the UN meeting in New York (Photo: pl2011.eu)

She added: "We do not have the resolution before the UN at the moment and therefore this was not the time to discuss the EU's repsonse to such a resolution."

The EU meeting comes three weeks before Palestine is to submit a draft text to the UN General Assembly in New York asking the body to upgrade its status.

While EU countries agree on basic principles - the importance of Arab-Israeli talks and the need for a two-state solution based on 1967 borders - Europe is split on whether or not to back Palestine's unilateral bid for statehood.

Some ministers put a positive spin on the Sopot talks.

Sweden's Carl Bildt said they brought the EU "closer" to agreement on the issue. Estonia's Urmas Paet told EUobserver: "My feeling is Yes, the EU will eventually agree on its position and will not split into 27 or two or three different directions."

Other sources said the mood was not so friendly, however.

One EU diplomat said Bulgaria, the Czech republic, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands called for the EU to oppose Palestinian independence but that Ashton sided with more Palestinian-friendly countries.

"She's going her own way, freewheeling a bit. She is struggling to put forward her own opinion without taking into account the opinion of this substantial minority ... If you want to have an EU common position, it will be hard to do it like this."

On the pro-Palestinian side, Luxembourgish foreign minister Jean Asselborn broke the terms of an EU gentleman's agreement not to speak out before New York. The EU "cannot give nothing" to the Palestinians and should "give them dignity" he told Agence France Presse.

In a third camp, sources indicated Poland is happy to back any solution that has a realistic chance of broad EU and UN support.

For his part, German minister Guido Westerwelle added to confusion. Contacts said he was "almost silent" at Friday's talks, leaving colleagues unsure which way Berlin will go. "Maybe it's because of his difficult situation at home," the source added, referring to calls in Germany for him to resign.

A big problem was lack of knowledge of what the Palestinians will ask for.

Variables include Palestine asking the UN Security Council to become a fully-fledged UN member - an option that would see a US veto and a clash between the US and pro-Palestinian EU countries; Palestine asking the UN to become a "non-member state" like the Vatican - an option that could see Israel abandon previous peace deals; Palestine attaching supplementary clauses on recogntion of Israel or security issues which are unacceptable even for its EU friends.

A sudden split between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, an outbreak of Arab-Israeli violence or new Israeli settlement decisions could also influence EU swing countries in coming days.

"There were lots of 'buts, ifs, maybes and it depends'," Estonia's Paet told this website. "The process is moving so fast that what was true yesterday or today might be inadequate next week. So nobody is rushing to say what their position is."

Israel seeks Kosovo-type EU split on Palestine

Israel is targeting Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia in an attempt to split the EU on giving full UN recognition to Palestine.

Polls show EU support for Palestinian bid

A strong majority of people in three large EU countries - France, Germany and the UK - have said their governments should vote in favour of Palestine's UN bid.

EU pitches counter-offers to Palestinian statehood bid

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has unveiled an alternative proposal to a UN vote on recognising Palestine. But soft language on Israeli settlements and a competing French idea put the scheme in doubt.

Feature

The Hagia Sophia and the global battle of symbols

The Turkish president's decision to restart Islamic worship services in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia last Friday is not innocent. So how should we react? By doing the opposite - and make Cordoba's famous Mosque/Cathedral in Cordoba a museum.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Berlin repeats support for EU human rights sanctions
  2. China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US
  3. Far right using pandemic to win friends in Germany
  4. Visegrad countries immediately push back on new migration pact
  5. Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?
  6. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  7. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  8. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us