Sunday

4th Dec 2022

EU ministers scramble for common position on Palestine

  • Jerusalem, a holy place for both Jews and Arabs, is one of the biggest problems in efforts to establish two separate states (Photo: Hadar)

EU foreign ministers are gathering on Friday (2 September) and Saturday in the Polish resort of Sopot in a bid to reconcile opposing views on Palestine's upcoming bid to upgrade its UN status.

The meeting comes two days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged the bloc to "speak with one voice" on the divisive subject.

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"I hope that the 27 countries of the European Union speak with a single voice. We should live up to our responsibilities together," Sarkozy told an annual conference in Paris of France's top diplomats.

A number of EU countries are expected to back the Palestinian effort, including France itself as well as the UK and Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

But with the US already saying it will veto the UN bid, pro-Israeli EU states such as Germany and Italy have indicated they will oppose the move and call for a return to Arab-Israeli peace talks instead.

According to the Jerusalem Post, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told Israeli officials during her visit to Israel this week that she is still trying to convince the Palestinian Authority to back away from the UN application.

Last year, the EU agreed to recognise Palestine "when appropriate", pending a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority leading to a two-state solution.

The two main conditions were to go back to the borders of 1967 and to establish Jerusalem as a shared capital for both sides. No progress has been achieved in either of the two areas, prompting frustrated Palestinians to make the unilateral UN move.

Given the US veto, one likely outcome is for Palestine to become recognised as a country but not as a fully-fledged UN member on the model of the Vatican.

It remains unclear if this would give them the right to file cases to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, enabling them to sue Israel over alleged war crimes.

Another issue complicating the international body's handling of the case is a growing rift between Israel and Turkey.

Turkey - a long-standing ally of both Palestine and the EU - was outraged by Israel's commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year, which killed nine people.

An inquiry by the United Nations published this week blamed both sides, concluding that the raid was legal, but that Israeli forces used "excessive" violence.

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