‘’The European Council held an in-depth strategic debate on the Middle East,’’ was the sole mention of the Middle East in the conclusions published following the two-day summit of EU leaders in Brussels which ended Friday.
The fact that the 27 leaders didn’t issue a statement on the developments in the war between Israel and Hamas, highlights the continued division among member states on the issue and in particular on the necessity of a ceasefire. A division that was clear during a vote in the UN General Assembly on a resolution calling for a ceasefire ; two member states (Austria and Czechia) voted against, a majority others voted in favor or abstained.
After the EU leaders meeting on Friday, European Council President Charles Michel told a press conference that leaders had simply a discussion on a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict based on the so-called two-state solution. He reiterated EU leaders opted to reiterate previous declarations stating Israel’s right to self-defence in line with international law and the need to let humanitarian aid access to Gaza.
During the discussion, Ireland, Belgium, with Spain and Malta led EU calls for a ceasefire but no unanimity came out from the meeting.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was the most vocal in favor of an EU tougher stance on Israel’s military operation in Gaza.
“The majority of EU countries are now calling for a ceasefire,” he said. “There are one or two that are not because they believe that it would prevent Israel from pursuing Hamas terrorists. I don’t agree with that interpretation.”
“I think the European Union has lost credibility because of our inability to take a stronger and more united position on Israel and Palestine,” Varadkar said.
“There needs to be a cease of the hostilities,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said.
“They (Israel) have the right to eliminate the terrorist threat that is originating from Gaza,” De Croo added, “but in restraint and in respecting international humanitarian law. And I think it’s very clear, there’s been too many civilian killings. Let’s stop the civilian killings.”
During the summit final press conference, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez,who has been one of the most critical of Israel within the EU, said he “does not want to say anything more than Charles Michel, who represents the voice of all member states. You all know what the position of the Spanish government is.”