15th Jul 2018

EU down on Sharon-Bush agreement

The EU has reacted with wariness to an apparent shift in US policy towards the Middle East.

"The European Union will not recognise any change to the pre-1967 borders (of Israel) other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties", Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen said in a statement on behalf of the EU presidency.

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His words come after US President George W. Bush on Wednesday (14 April) called Israeli leader Ariel Sharon's plans to disengage from Gaza and parts of the West Bank "historic and courageous".

Mr Sharon's plan envisages uprooting all settlements on the Gaza Strip but holding on to some settlement blocs in the West Bank.

Up until now, the US has viewed Jewish settlements as an obstacle to peace.

Mr Bush's backing of Mr Sharon's unilateral plan comes despite the Middle-East roadmap to peace which was drawn up by the US, the EU, Russia and the UN.

For their part, Palestinians fear that the US's support for the plan could mean that their hopes of establishing a state that includes all of the West Bank and Gaza have been lost.

The European Commission also reacted with caution but did not criticise Mr Bush outright.

"It is quite evident that this proposal, which was endorsed by President Bush, is quite different from the position unanimously agreed by all the heads of state and government of the European Union at the March European Council", said the Commission's chief spokesperson.

"We said that the withdrawal could represent a significant step towards the implementation of the Roadmap provided that it takes place in the context of this Roadmap".

EU foreign ministers will discuss the "repercussions" of Mr Sharon's statements at an informal meeting this weekend.

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