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EU and Israel hope to hold another meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council this year in Jerusalem

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During a meeting in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell recalled that cooperation between the EU and Israel ‘’is very strong’’ and that the EU ‘’is keen on deepening this relationship further.’

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen asked Borrell to unequivocally condemn the Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying terrorists a monthly stipend. He also called on the EU to advance sanctions on Iran. “This is the time to stop a nuclear Iran,” he said.

The EU and Israel hope to hold another meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council, the highest forum steering EU-Israel relations, this year, this time in Jerusalem, after a meeting Tuesday in Brussels between EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.

It was their first in person encounter during which they discussed the bilateral relations between the EU and Israel as well as regional issues.

Borrell recalled that cooperation between the EU and Israel ‘’is very strong’’ and the EU ‘’is keen on deepening this relationship further.’’

‘’Holding the Association Council as the highest institutional level of bilateral dialogue is important not just to continue strengthening EU-Israel relationship, but also because of the importance of cooperation to face global challenges, among them Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, or Iran’s regional rôle,’’ Borrell said according to a press release from the EU external service which didn’t mention Jerusalem as a venue for the Association Council.

The EU-Israel Association Council, which is composed of the Israeli Foreign Minister and the 27 EU Foreign Ministers, met last October in Brussels after a hiatus of ten years due to disagreements on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

According to the Israeli media, Cohen invited Borrell to visit Israel (the EU’s top diplomat never visited the Jewish state since he took office). Earlier this year,  Israel blocked Borrell from visiting because of his criticism of Israel and what diplomatic sources termed his equation of Palestinian terror with Israeli army operations in the West Bank.

During his meeting with Cohen, Borrell condemned recent terrorist and rocket attacks against Israelis and underlined the EU’s commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself.

Borrell recalled that ‘’any response must be proportionate and in line with international law.’’  He also expressed concern about ‘’the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.’’

He welcomed the recent work towards de-escalation under the auspices of the US, Jordan and Egypt and expressed the EU’s willingness to assist in the process.

According to the EU statement, Borrell reiterated the EU’s call ‘’for Israel to halt unilateral measures that could heighten the already high level of tension and jeopardize the very possibility of a future just and sustainable peace based on the two State solution, and repeated the importance of respecting the status quo of the Holy Sites.’’

‘’The EU is seeking an open and constructive exchange with Israel on the Middle East Peace Process,’’ it said.

‘’The EU supports the normalisation agreements Israel has signed with a number of Arab countries and stands ready to explore further initiatives. The EU also hopes that these can bring benefits for the Palestinians, without which the positive dynamic of normalisation will remain incomplete,’’ the statement said.

The Israeli minister reportedly  asked Borrell to unequivocally condemn the Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying terrorists a monthly stipend. He also called on the EU to advance sanctions on Iran. “This is the time to stop a nuclear Iran,” Cohen said.

Cohen also met with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas and European Commissionner for Neighborhood and Enlargment, Oliver Varhelyi.

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