EU Foreign Ministers Endorse French Initiative, Call for Mideast Peace Summit by Year's End

EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini says Quartet report on Israeli-Palestinian stalemate to be published in next few days; Netanyahu to meet with Kerry next Sunday in Rome.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (center) shakes hands with Norway's Foreign Minister Borge Brende prior to an international meeting to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in Paris on June 3, 2016.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (center) shakes hands with Norway's FM Borge Brende prior to an international meeting to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in Paris on June 3, 2016.Credit: Saul Loeb, AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council, comprising the 28 foreign ministers of the EU's member countries, on Monday adopted a resolution backing the French peace initiative and calling for an international peace conference to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks before the end of the year.

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 Sunday in Rome, according to an Israeli source.

One of the decisions taken by the European foreign ministers was to create a package of incentives for both Palestinians and Israelis prior to the international peace conference before the end of this year.

In that regard, they referred to the December 2013 proposal that the EU would upgrade Israel to "special and preferred partner" status.

In the context of its attempts to soften the declaration of the EU foreign ministers, Israel clarified that it was opposed to any connection between the December 2013 proposal and the French peace initiative.

Israel's position was not accepted by the EU ministers, with both issues being mentioned in the closing statement.

The ministers' decision asked the EU's foreign affairs apparatus and its representatives in Europe to immediately compile proposals for incentives, primarily economic, that could be given to Israel and the Palestinians to persuade them to move forward with the peace process.

"The EU is determined, alongside other international and regional partners, to bring a concrete and substantial contribution to a global set of incentives for the parties to make peace," the communique said.

"The Council also reaffirms the European proposal, as endorsed in the Council Conclusions of December 2013, of an unprecedented package of political, economic and security support to be offered to and developed with both parties in the context of a final status agreement."

The statement called on "both parties to the conflict to demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to a peaceful solution in order to rebuild mutual trust and create conditions for direct and meaningful negotiations aiming at ending the occupation that began in 1967, and resolving all permanent status issues."

Responding to the decision of the EU foreign ministers on Sunday, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emanuel Nachshon 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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