Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn, who participated in the meeting of the council of European foreign ministers, told Haaretz that all the ministers who spoke at the session supported the French initiative for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“There was nobody that voiced any objections to the French initiative. Everybody agreed,” he said. Asselborn noted that French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said at the meeting that in the second week of July, right after Ramadan, France wishes to proceed to the second phase of its initiative, starting with working groups that would draw up lists of international economic incentives for Israel and the Palestinians and discuss confidence building measures the two sides could take, as well as dealing with proposed regional security arrangements.
According to Luxembourg’s foreign minister, the French want to convene another meeting of foreign ministers close to the UN General Assembly meeting in New York next September, as part of the preparations for an international peace conference to be held at the end of 2016. The French want the working groups to include representatives from different countries which are party to the French initiative, including Arab states, as well as possibly Israelis and Palestinians. “Everyone is invited to join in the foreign affairs council meeting all member states showed willingness to take part in the working groups,” he said.
In their meeting in Brussels on Monday the 28 foreign ministers of European Union countries expressed their support for the French initiative and for the convening of an international conference by the end of the year, in order to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The ministers also agreed that the EU would put together a package of economic, security and diplomatic incentives over the next few months.
"The Council welcomes the Joint Communiqué on the Middle East peace initiative adopted at the Ministerial meeting in Paris on 3 June 2016," the ministers said in a statement issued at the conclusion of their meeting in Brussels. "The Council reiterates its support for a just, sustainable and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and peace and stability in the region."
EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini told a press conference after the meeting that a report on the current deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would be published "in the next few days." The report was compiled by the Middle East Quartet, comprising the EU, the United States, the United Nations and Russia.
The report is expected to be harshly critical of Israeli policy in the West Bank and to contain proposals for steps that need to be taken. The assessment in Israel is that the report will be published on Thursday, though that has not been confirmed.
The Quartet's report and the French peace initiative are expected to be at the center of an upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The meeting is scheduled for next Monday in Rome, according to an Israeli source.
Responding to the decision of the EU foreign ministers on Sunday, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that "peace with the Palestinians will only be achieved through direct, bilateral negotiations without pre-conditions. International conferences of the sort endorsed by the EU foreign ministers' council today only make peace more distant, because they enable the Palestinians to continue avoiding direct talks and compromise. It's an unfortunate step that reverses the efforts to achieve peace, to which Israel is committed.”
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