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20th Aug 2022

Israeli-friendly MEPs lobby Ashton on Palestine

A cross-party group of 104 eurodeputies has urged the EU's new diplomatic service to do all it can to avoid a UN vote on recognition of Palestine.

The MEPs said in an open letter to EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton on Monday (11 July) that the Palestinian initiative, expected at the UN General Assembly in September, could destroy any chances of peace.

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  • Ashton at work in the EU parliament (Photo: European Parliament)

"A unilateral move will not bring reconciliation; it will not bring stability; it will not bring peace. Rather, it will most likely fell the peace process for good," the letter explains.

"The prospect of UN recognition also raises unrealistic expectations among Palestinians that they soon will have a sovereign state. But a UN vote will not change the reality on the ground and thus disappoint many Palestinians. Such disappointment has in the past often ignited new violence."

The letter was signed by members of five of the biggest political groups in the European Parliament, ranging from British eurosceptics to Estonian greens.

Most of the 104 come from traditionally Israeli-sympathetic countries such as Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania. But several names from more Palestinian-friendly EU members - France, Spain, Sweden, the UK - also featured in the roll call.

The letter coincides with a meeting in Washington on the same day between Ashton, US secretary of state Hilary Clinton, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, UN chief Ban Ki Moon - the so-called Quartet - and its special envoy to the Middle East, former British leader Tony Blair.

The meeting is designed to help revive Arab-Israeli talks which unravelled last year in part due to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.

The EU hopes that if the Quartet endorses a return to talks, while giving concessions to the Palestinian side, the Palestinians will put on hold their UN bid.

The Quartet dinner starts at 7pm Washington time and may or may not generate a written communique, depending on the ouctome, Blair's assistant, Matthew Doyle told EUobserer. "Tony Blair has always maintained that the only way to peace is through a negotiated solution by both sides. This remains his firm belief," Doyle said.

No Israeli or Palestinian diplomats are to be present at the US-hosted event, but the two sides have made their positions clear via media.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he is ready to resume talks "tomorrow morning" but that the Palestinians refuse. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Sunday: "We call on the Quartet to issue a statement urging Israel to freeze construction in the settlements and accept the 1967 lines as the borders of the Palestinian state."

Netanyahu has rejected returning to 1967 lines on the grounds that they are militarily "indefensible."

Restoring the old lines would force Israel to evict hardline settlers in a complex series of land swaps. It would also involve some form of joint control over East Jerusalem - a red line for Netanyahu.

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