EU to hold talks on Gaza conflict

2024-01-22 10:33:16China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

European Union foreign ministers will hold separate talks on Monday with their counterparts from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and several key Arab states to find solutions to the Gaza crisis and future peace in the Middle East.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki are expected to join the talks in Brussels. But so far they have no plans to meet each other.

Meanwhile, foreign ministers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will also meet EU foreign ministers amid growing concern of a wider conflict in the region.

A 10-point peace road map prepared by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to be discussed in the first EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting this year.

The road map includes a process that leads to an independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel and the full normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world.

The EU's 27 members hold different views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Countries including Belgium, Ireland and Spain have called for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Belgium announced it would fully support a decision by the International Court of Justice to stop attacks against Gaza in a case brought by South Africa, which accuses Israel of genocide.

On the other hand, Germany has said it will intervene on Israel's behalf in the genocide case. France's foreign minister Stephane Sejourne said that accusing Israel of genocide would be "crossing a moral threshold", triggering strong criticism from some French lawmakers.

Despite the differences, EU diplomats said they will try to find ways to end the conflict on the ground as well as take the next steps toward a long-term peace solution in the Middle East.

During the United Nations General Assembly in September, the EU proposed a so-called incentives-focused Middle East peace initiative to restart talks between Israel and Palestine. But the fresh fighting since Oct 7 has dampened hopes in such efforts.

The death toll of the conflict in Gaza has soared past 25,000, the Gaza Health Ministry said on Sunday. About 1,200 Israelis were killed in Hamas' attacks.

Catastrophic situation

In an op-ed in Le Monde on Jan 15, Borrell said the EU's three priorities in the Middle East are to prevent the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from spreading, to put an end to the catastrophic situation in Gaza and free the hostages and to implement the two-state solution.

Borrell on Friday accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of funding Hamas to "weaken the Palestinian Authority of Fatah "and derail any attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The bad news is that Israel, in particular its government, is completely refusing — and yesterday Netanyahu said it again as if he was anticipating my words today — to accept a (two-state) solution that he has personally been boycotting for the past 30 years," Borrell said.

Netanyahu sent shock waves around the world by rejecting the two-state solution on Thursday. "I clarify that in any arrangement in the foreseeable future, with an accord or without an accord, Israel must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River. That's a necessary condition. It clashes with the principle of sovereignty but what can you do?" he said.

It came as thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday in central Tel Aviv, calling for the return of hostages held in Gaza and early elections in the country.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a message on X on Sunday that "the refusal to accept the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people are unacceptable".

The EU on Friday imposed asset freezes and travel bans on six people it said were linked to Hamas.

The EU is also considering following the United States and the United Kingdom to sanction Israeli settlers responsible for the violence in the West Bank. But EU diplomatic sources revealed it is unlikely to be approved in the Monday meeting.

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