Friday, 18 Sep 2020 - 29 of Elul, 5780

The EU to work ‘on all channels’ to prevent annexation by the new Israeli government

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The EU ‘’will not advance events in terms of annexation,’’  said EU foreign affairs chief after a ministerial video conference, in order words no measures are envisaged at this stage against Israel, the EU preferring to focus on the diplomatic action and continue the discussion on this issue.   

Asked by European Jewish Press if he is planning to visit Israel and talk to the Israeli leadership, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell explained that due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, he is not planning to travel to Israel or anywhere else.  ‘’Unhappily, travelling is going to be difficult, to Israel and everywhere else. But, why not? It will be a good idea to visit Israel.’’

He said the EU will congratulate the new government once it is in office. ‘’I hope my phone call will be one of the first the (new) Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel (Benny Ashkenazi)  will get in order to express what we have been talking about today in the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and our willingness to continue working with Israel on all possible cooperation fronts.’’

The European Union will work to prevent the new Israeli government from annexing part of the West Bank as envisaged in its coalition program, said EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Friday after a video conference of the 27 EU Foreign Ministers. But the EU ‘’will not advance events in terms of annexation,’’ in order words no measures are envisaged at this stage against Israel, the EU preferring to focus on the diplomatic action and continue the discussion on this issue.   

“We must work to discourage any possible initiative towards annexation. Unilateral actions from either side should be avoided and, for sure, international law should be upheld,’’ he explained at a press conference following the conference. According to Borrell, the EU and Member States must use all channels at their disposal.

‘’We will use all our diplomatic capacities in order to prevent any kind of unilateral action. And if this happens, then we will see. But for the time being, our efforts are devoted to the diplomatic action in order to avoid any unilateral action and in support of a negotiated two-state solution, as well as in support of the upholding international law. International law has to be upheld -here and there, and everywhere,’’ Borrell declared.

He said that such a diplomatic action ‘’will require reaching out, by all of us, to Israel, US, Palestinians and Arab partners, using all channels that the EU and the Member States have.’’

The coalition agreement signed two weeks ago between Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’ Blue and White, to form a unity government after one year of political deadlock, states that annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Jordan Valley can be brought to a vote in the cabinet or Knesset on July 1 at the earliest in accordance with US President Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

‘’The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a priority and it is one of the strategic interests of the European Union. We continue being ready to participate on it,’’ the EU top diplomat said.

The ministerial discussion on the Middle East issue on Friday highlighted a split between the member states who are rather favoring enhancing EU-Israel relations and those who push for measures against  a possible annexation either with economic measures or even the possibility of the recognition of a Palestinian state.

‘’There have been several proposals on the table, from different approaches, and some Member States said that we have to think about how we manage to enhance our relationship with Israel and which things we can do in order to try to prevent any possible annexation,’’ Borrell explained.

Reports earlier this week said that several member states, including France, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg want to discuss the possibility of strong measures against Israel should the new Israeli government decide to go ahead with the annexation. But other member states, including Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy and Austria oppose such a possibility and are rather supporting the idea of a dialogue with Israel.

Benny Ashkenazi, who will be Foreign Minister in the new unity government. ‘’I hope my phone call will be one of the first the Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel will get in order to express what we have been talking about in the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and our willingness to continue working with Israel on all possible cooperation fronts.’’

As one journalist asked Borrell if he agrees with the view of one of the Foreign Ministers that the West Bank can be compared to the annexation of Crimea, he replied that ‘’ comparison sometimes does not bring a lot of logic.’’ ‘’I do not know what kind of intellectual exercise you can do by comparing one thing to the other, but the annexation of Crimea was against international law, and we say that we have to respect international law everywhere. Crimea was part of a sovereign state sitting in the United Nations. We can discuss how alike is the situation in the Middle East but international law has to be respected everywhere. We cannot have a selective backing of international law.’’

In the context of the formation of the new Israeli government, Borrell expressed the EU willingness ‘’to work comprehensively and constructively with the new government once it is sworn in.’’

Asked by European Jewish Press if he is planning to visit Israel and talk to the Israeli leadership, Borrell explained that due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, he is not planning to travel to Israel or anywhere else.  ‘’Unhappily, travelling is going to be difficult, to Israel and everywhere else. But, why not? It will be a good idea to visit Israel.’’

He said the EU will congratulate the new government once it is in office. ‘’I hope my phone call will be one of the first the (new) Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel (Benny Ashkenazi)  will get in order to express what we have been talking about today in the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and our willingness to continue working with Israel on all possible cooperation fronts.’’

‘’For us it is important to have the best relationship with the new government of Israel, to visit it, and know them personally and to talk to them. It would be a part of this cooperation,’’ Borrell stressed.

 

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