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18th Jan 2020

Former diplomats urge EU to draw red line on Israel

  • Jerusalem: Trump was 'gambling with the security and stability of various countries located at Europe's doorstep', the former ministers said (Photo: Mohammad Usaid Abbasi)

The EU ought to tell the US that their partnership on Israel is over if US leader Donald Trump endorses Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories, former top diplomats from all over Europe have said.

"In anticipation of this US plan, we believe Europe should formally reaffirm the internationally agreed parameters for a two-state solution," 37 former foreign ministers and EU leaders said in a letter to the EU Council and EU foreign service on Monday (15 April).

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"Doing this in advance of the US plan establishes the EU's criteria for supporting American efforts," they said.

Trump has promised to unveil what he has called the "deal of the century" on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

But his decisions so far, to recognise Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem from Palestine and of the Golan Heights from Syria, indicate that he plans to go against the EU and UN-backed model, Mogens Lykketoft, a Danish MP and former foreign minister, who initiated the letter, told EUobserver on Sunday (14 April).

"We can see that there is a coordinated wish in Washington and Jerusalem right now that one should recognise from the side of the US the annexation of major blocks of settlements," he said.

If Trump was to to propose a one-state solution, then he would be unlikely to back "one state with equal rights for everybody," Lykketoft added.

The last time the EU formally restated its position on Palestine was in Council conclusions by foreign ministers in 2014.

But given Trump's "disturbing" actions so far and the re-election of Israel's hawkish prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a new EU statement "is more important than ever", Lykketoft noted.

Trump and Netanyahu's actions were "harmful to the possibilities of lasting peace" and a one-state model would be "unstable - it would not bring real peace to the Palestinian people or the Israeli people", he noted.

The open letter said Trump was "gambling with the security and stability of various countries located at Europe's doorstep".

Israel was already "sliding into a one-state reality of unequal rights" and Trump's endorsement of Netanyahu's policies could "fatally damage the cause of a durable peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike", it went on.

The EU and the US would be more effective if they acted together, it said.

But "in situations in which our vital interests and fundamental values are at stake, Europe must pursue its own course of action," the 37 signatories said.

The galaxy of names included former ministers from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Nordic countries, and the UK.

It also included signatories from Italy and Spain in the south and from Austria, Poland, and Romania in Central Europe.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have in recent years forged closer relations with Israel and blocked or abstained from joint EU and UN statements endorsing the two-state model.

But for Lykketoft, the letter showed that "there is the same concern all around Europe, maybe not everywhere to the same degree, but you have reasonable people in almost all the EU countries who are ready to promote peace".

The EU also ought to differentiate between Israeli settlements and Israel proper in its trade policy, he added.

It even ought to recognise Palestine the way that Sweden has done in order to protect its territorial integrity, Lykketoft said.

But these were just his personal views and those of former Danish foreign minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, another signatory, rather than the joint position of all 37 names, Lykketoft noted.

The most important thing was for all 28 EU states to stand together on the "basic parameters" for the peace process for now, he added.

Some EU countries, such as France, have suggested the EU should in future introduce majority voting on foreign policy, so that spoiler countries, such as Hungary, could not block its statements.

But Lykketoft said it was "too much to hope for" that the EU-28 would agree to scrap the consensus principle enshrined in the EU treaty.

He also said Europe's foreign activism would be weakened if it tried to leave behind individual EU states who disagreed with the mainstream.

"It's very important that Europe stands together on the important issues," he said.

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