Netanyahu Warns German FM: EU's Settlement Guidelines Will Undercut Peace Process

Netanyahu tells visiting German FM Guido Westerwelle that Israel is committed to peace, but says guidelines have prompted the Palestinians to demand impossible results; solution will come only through direct talks, says PM, not through external dictates.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday that the European Union's new guidelines on Israel's settlements in the West Bank undercut the freshly resumed peace process and strengthen the Palestinian position.

In a meeting at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, where he was recovering from a recent hernia operation, Netanyahu assured Westerwelle that Israel was committed to peace and working actively toward achieving it.

Nevertheless, he warned, the European Union's guidelines have prompted the Palestinians to demand impossible results.

Netanyahu added that a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could be achieved only through negotiations between the two sides, and not by the dictate of any external force.

The prime minister held the talks with Germany's top diplomat just hours after Israel released the names of the 26 Palestinian prisoners jailed prior to the Oslo Accords who are slated to be released this week as part of a goodwill gesture to jumpstart peace talks.

The 26 prisoners named on this list are the first group to be freed, with another three stages of releases expected over the next eight month. The first release will be carried out on Tuesday night.

The European Union released its guidelines on settlements in late July, before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would resume for the first time in more than three years. The sides are expected to hold talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday night, a day after the prisoner release.

The European Union's guidelines bar any of its agencies from funding entities connected to settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and residential areas in the Golan Heights.

They also require that any agreement or contract signed by an EU country with Israel include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of the State of Israel and therefore are not part of the agreement. The guidelines will go into effect on January 1, 2014.

Reuters