Backing French peace push, EU ministers add carrots to sweeten deal
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Backing French peace push, EU ministers add carrots to sweeten deal

Foreign Affairs council offers economic incentives to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian talks; Israel slaps ‘unfortunate step’

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

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, right, talks to Belgian Foreign minister Didier Reynders, left and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond during a monthly Foreign Affairs meeting in Luxembourg on June 20, 2016. (AFP/ JOHN THYS)
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, right, talks to Belgian Foreign minister Didier Reynders, left and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond during a monthly Foreign Affairs meeting in Luxembourg on June 20, 2016. (AFP/ JOHN THYS)

The European Union on Monday proposed “concrete” incentives for Israelis and Palestinians to restart peace negotiations at a peace summit later this year in Paris.

During their monthly meeting in Brussels, the EU’s 28 foreign ministers tasked the European Commission and the EU’s External Action Service — its equivalent of a foreign ministry — to make a “concrete and substantial contribution” to international efforts seeking to revitalized the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process through a “global set of incentives” for both two parties.

“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 with a view to an international conference planned to be held before the end of the year,” the foreign ministers said in a statement.

Monday’s Foreign Affairs Council specifically mentions “economic incentives,” invoking the EU’s 2013 offer 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.”

Both Israelis and Palestinians “need 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,” the European foreign ministers said.

The EU’s foreign ministers also unanimously endorsed the French peace initiative, which started with a conference in Paris earlier this month. Israel flatly rejected the French move, arguing that it hardens Palestinian negotiation positions and thus pushes off peace.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem responded to the statement by repeating its rejection of the French peace initiative and calling for bilateral talks.

“This is an unfortunate step that pushes back efforts to provide the peace that Israel needs,” the ministry said in a statement.

Later this week, President Reuven Rivlin and and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to meet separately with EU foreign policy czar Federica Mogherini.

Also later this week, the Middle East Quartet, of which the EU is a part, is expected to publish its reports on the peace process. According to officials who have seen early drafts of the report, it outlines steps that both sides must take to advance a two-state solution, including the cessation of settlement expansion and incitement.

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