BRUSSELS (EJP)--- The European Union on Monday expressed “deep concern” about “developments on the ground” which, it said, “ threaten to make a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians impossible,” citing “the marked acceleration of settlement construction following the end of the 2010 moratorium, the recent decision of the government of Israel regarding the status of some settlements outposts, ongoing evictions and house demolitions in East-Jerusalem as well as the proposal to relocate settlers from Migron within the occupied Palestinian territory.”
In their conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process issued after a meeting in Brussels, European Union Foreign Ministers reiterated that “settlements remain illegal under international law, irrespective of recent decisions by the government of Israel.”
The EU also said it was “deeply concerned” regarding “settler extremism and incitement by settlers in the West Bank.” “The EU condemns continuous settler violence and deliberate provocations against Palestinian civilians. It calls on the government of Israel to bring the perpetrators to justice and to comply with its obligations under international law.”
The Israeli government and Jewish leaders worldwide will be reading the conclusions of the meeting with interest.
Upon arrival at the EU meeting, EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who made a surprise visit in Israel last week, declared: “We’ll be discussing our continuing commitment (to the Middle East Peace Process), remaining solid to the two state solution, and sending a strong message to the new coalition in Israel and to the Palestinians that we want to see talks move forward.”
|'One-sided depiction of realities on the ground,' says Israel
|Israel's foreign ministry issued a statement saying the EU position included "a long list of claims and criticism which are based on a partial, biased and one-sided depiction of realities on the ground." "Such a public presentation does not contribute to advancing the (peace) process," it said. "Israel is committed to the wellbeing of the Palestinian population and acts according to all relevant international conventions."
Her comments come in light of reports that Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu has responded to communications from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a letter of his own on Saturday night, in which he apparently pledged to establish a demilitarized Palestinian state, as well as committing to restarting peace negotiations at the earliest available opportunity.
Netanyahu has previously implied his support for a two-state solution in a speech to Bar Ilan University in 2009, as well as in speaking to the US congress in May 2011. It has not, however, been made official or the subject of a cabinet vote.
Despite both sides releasing a joint statement following the exchange of letter, stating that they are "obligated to achieve peace" and hope the letters "will contribute to this end," following a meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee and Fatah central committee on Sunday, the PLO issued a contrasting statement saying that Netanyahu’s letter had contained no concrete solutions to key issues – namely a commitment to halt settlement buildings in East Jerusalem, recognition of 1967 borders and the release of prisoners.
The conclusions of Monday's EU meeting appeared to support the earlier PLO statement:“The EU reiterates that it will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties."
"The EU reiterates that a way must be found to resolve the state of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states”, the statement went on to say.
These findings are likely to be considered with some degree of disappointment by Netanyahu, who has previously claimed that 1967 borders are indefensible for Israel.
In their conclusions, the EU welcomed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that the new Israeli unity government will try to advance the peace process. “It stands ready to support the resumption of substantive negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with a view to achieving a two-state solution," the EU said.
The EU reiterated its “fundamental commitment” to the security of Israel, including with regard to vital threats in the region. “The EU is appalled by recurring rocket attacks from Gaza and condemns in the strongest terms violence deliberately targeting civilians. The EU reiterates its call on all partners in the region for the effective prevention of arms smuggling into Gaza.”
EU Ministers said ongoing changes across the Arab world make progress on the Mideast peace process all the more urgent.