Ahead of Cairo talks, Danish FM threatens Israel with sanctions

Copenhagen and the EU will reconsider economic ties if Jerusalem doesn’t show ‘a new reaction pattern,’ Martin Lidegaard says

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard (photo credit: AP/Polfoto, Jens Dresling)
Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard (photo credit: AP/Polfoto, Jens Dresling)

Denmark is considering adopting a tougher stance toward Israel if this week’s talks with the Palestinians in Cairo fail to produce the desired results, the country’s foreign minister said Monday, threatening Jerusalem with European Union-wide economic sanctions.

“If nothing happens at the peace negotiations this time, and if we don’t see a new reaction pattern from Israel, then we will discuss new steps, including a change in our trade relations with Israel,” Martin Lidegaard told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “I hope that it doesn’t go that far, but I think that EU policy is heading in that direction.”

Lidegaard, who became foreign minister in February, further called on Israel to lift its “blockade” of the Gaza Strip and to end the “illegal settlements” in the West Bank as they undermine a two-state solution. The Palestinians, he said, must demilitarize Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.

Ties between Copenhagen and Jerusalem are usually warm, which is presumably why Israel decided not to respond angrily to Lidegaard’s threat. “The Danish foreign minister is mistaken in his one-sided analysis of the current situation between Israel and the Palestinian,” a senior diplomatic official told The Times of Israel on Monday. “We are sure that a visit on the ground will enable him to get a better and more balanced perspective on the questions and challenges we face.”

Opposition parties in Denmark criticized Lidegaard’s statement, as did Trade Minister Mogens Jensen, who suggested that no sanctions against Israel are currently required. Such a move should not come as an initiative of his government, he said. “You can use sanctions when there is international approval for doing so,” Jensen told Jyllands-Posten. “I don’t think that it makes sense for Denmark to go it alone, because then it will have no effect. And I don’t feel that I can say there is a need for sanctions yet.”

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