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18th Jan 2020

EU criticises Trump's Israel embassy idea

  • Mogherini said EU had "autonomous" Middle East policy (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini has warned that if Donald Trump moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem it could have “serious consequences”.

“It’s very important for us all to refrain from unilateral actions, especially ones that can have serious consequences in terms of public reaction in large parts of the world,” she told press in Brussels on Monday (16 January) when asked about Trump's idea.

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She said EU foreign ministers had discussed the issue and that all 28 agreed to “continue to respect” a UN resolution from 1980 that designated Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.

“We [the EU] will, for sure, not move our delegation that is in Tel Aviv and we hope that there can be a reflection [in the US] on the consequences of any move that is taken”, she said.

She added that the EU had an “autonomous” policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict that would not be altered if the US changed its mind.

Trump, who takes office on Friday, plans to announce the Jerusalem move on 24 May, an Israeli holiday marking the 50th anniversary of its capture from Arab forces, according to US broadcaster CNN.

The fear in EU circles is that if the US abandons the UN model of a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital, it could provoke outrage in Palestine and in the wider Arab world.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said in Brussels on Monday that new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were "a necessity".

He said he hoped the Trump administration "goes along this path".

The potential shift in US policy has already made its mark on the EU, however.

Britain, America’s closest ally in Europe, declined to join the 27 other EU countries in a declaration on the two-state model at a conference in Paris on Sunday.

"The message [of the Paris declaration] is that two states, the state of Israel and the state of Palestine, can at last live side by side in security and peace," French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Monday.

Diplomatic sources said the UK and Hungary, at Monday’s meeting, also blocked the EU from publishing a statement that endorsed the two-state solution.

Mogherini denied that this was the case, saying that “rumours” of the British veto contained an “element of fantasy”.

She said that Monday’s talks on the Middle East were always meant to have been “informal” in nature and that all 28 countries had voiced commitment to existing EU policy.

Trump-era relations

The foreign ministers met after Trump, in an interview with British and German newspapers, had said the UK would not be the last EU state to leave and that Nato was "obsolete".

“I think the European Union will stick together … I think the European Union will be OK in the future,” Mogherini said.

Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said he had spoken in New York one week ago with two senior members of Trump’s team who had pledged ongoing Nato allegiance.

UK foreign minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that Trump wanted to agree a new trade pact with the UK "very soon" in what he called "good news".

Mogherini, who is also a European Commission vice-president, said that it would be against EU law, by which Britain was still bound, if it began trade talks with third countries before it left the European Union.

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