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26th Jan 2020

EU 'special envoy' going to US plan for Palestine

  • The Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem - where Donald Trump has already relocated the US embassy to Israel. (Photo: Hadar)

A little-known diplomat and a mid-ranking official will represent the EU at the launch of a grand US peace plan for the Middle East this week.

Susanna Terstal, an EU "special representative" on the Middle East peace process, and Michael Miller, a head of unit at the European Commission, are to attend the US event in Bahrain on Tuesday (25 June) and Wednesday on behalf of EU institutions, EU sources told this website.

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The EU foreign service declined to confirm or deny the information.

But an EU spokesperson said the "EU's attendance will be at a technical level" and that "our participation at the workshop in Manama does not infringe on any of [our] very clear commitments" on creating a Palestinian state.

Terstal is a former Dutch ambassador to Iran and Angola who was appointed to her EU post last September.

She has made a handful of Middle East trips, but kept a low profile, and her post exists outside the EU foreign service's normal hierarchy.

Miller will represent the commission's enlargement and neighbourhood directorate, which is a big aid donor in the region, but his post lies two levels below the EU commissioner in charge, Johannes Hahn.

The Bahrain event will see the White House launch the economic part of what US president Donald Trump has called his "deal of the century" on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

It is meant to unlock $50bn (€44bn) of investment, including $5bn of infrastructure projects in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, in what Trump's son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner called the "opportunity of the century" last week.

But Palestine and some Arab states have boycotted it due to concerns that Trump wants to kick Palestinian statehood into the long grass.

And the EU's low-key participation at Tuesday's meeting indicated that it shared those concerns.

"The workshop in Manama is meant to present and explain the economic part of the plan in details to those that have been invited to attend. The EU will attend to better understand what is in it, without any commitment from our side to support it or participate in it," the EU spokesperson told EUobserver.

"The EU's position remains centred on our firm commitment to a negotiated two-state solution," the spokesperson said.

"As we speak, the situation on the ground deteriorates, increasing the risk of violence and further entrenching a one-state reality," the spokesperson added, referring to Israeli settlement expansion.

An EU source said the US economic plan also had other flaws.

"The [US] plan ... includes numerous existing or already proposed projects including for instance EU's financed Greater Gaza desalination plant," the source said.

"There is no indication as to where the money would come from and who would implement the projects. Also no mention of the existing impediments to the implementation of these proposals," the source added.

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