Tuesday

15th Jun 2021

Former leaders urge EU to recognise Palestine

  • Jerusalem: the EU has said that Palestine is institutionally ready to become an independent country (Photo: RonnyPohl)

Senior EU personalities have called for member states to recognise Palestinian independence as UN negotiations count down to Friday (23 September), when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is to put forward his draft resolution.

"Should this request [for full UN membership] be made, the EU should support it, coupling it with a clear expectation that an independent Palestine would be prepared to conduct negotiations with Israel," the joint statement, seen by EUobserver, says.

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Noting that the EU has already recognised that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has, with European support, created a fully functioning country in the West Bank, it adds: "Backtracking from this commitment now would demonstrate inconsistency, weakness and an absence of political will.

It also warns that EU relations with post-Arab Spring countries are at stake: "At a moment when the European Union is working to redefine its relations with the societies of the region, member states should not squander this opportunity to play a positive and meaningful role."

The roll call of 40 signatories includes former European leaders, cabinet ministers and EU commissioners, as well as Finland's current foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja.

Names from traditionally pro-Palestinian countries France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain comprise former French prime ministers Lionel Jospin and Michel Rocard, ex-Irish president Mary Robinson, one-time Portuguese president Jorge Sampaio and former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzales.

Signatories also come from pro-Israeli countries Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, including former German president Richard von Weizsacker, ex-prime ministers of Italy Giuliano Amato and Romano Prodi and former Dutch leader Andreas van Agt.

Speaking in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel on Tuesday (20 September), Fayyad also noted that the EU risks contradicting itself if it opposes the bid. "What if, just as an illustration, we go to the UN General Assembly and present a draft resolution where the preamble is taken verbatim from the European Council's 2009 position? No one could then tell me why the European Union should oppose it," he said.

Palestinian Authority President Abbas has publicly promised to seek full UN membership from the UN Security Council on Friday.

France and the UK in separate briefings from New York on Monday indicated they would not support Abbas' plan because it could lead to a split between the EU and the US and risk violence on the ground.

"Such a move in the Security Council would clearly be vetoed by the United States ... it would leave no one any further forward," British foreign minister William Hague said.

"If you go to the security council and then afterward there is an American veto, then nothing will happen on the ground except perhaps a resumption of violence because people are frustrated," French foreign minister Alain Juppe told the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.

The EU officially favours a return to Israeli-Palestinian talks on the basis of 1967 borders with a shared capital in Jerusalem. But if Abbas changes tack from seeking full UN membership and asks the UN General Assembly instead just to upgrade Palestine's status to a "non-member state" like the Vatican, several EU countries are prepared to vote in favour.

Most member states are honouring a gentleman's agreement not to say how they will vote until the final text of the Palestinian draft UN resolution is on the table.

For his part, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, made an ambiguous statement on Monday. "If the text of the resolution does not constitute a threat to Israel and advances the problem of Palestine, and if it creates a shadow of a chance of a compromise [with Israel], we are ready to vote in favour," he said.

Tension, confusion behind EU facade on Palestine

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

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.

Palestine fed up with waiting for EU common position

Palestine's ambassador to the EU has said Mahmoud Abbas will on Friday ask the UN Security Council for full UN membership despite last-minute British, French and US warnings not to go ahead.

EU opinions multiply on Palestinian UN upgrade

Five EU countries have joined France in saying the UN should upgrade Palestine's status. Three have joined the UK in saying No. Others fall in between the two camps or are staying out of the debate for now.

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