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EU to name new special envoy to Mideast peace process

Italian-born Fernando Gentilini has no background in Israeli-Palestinian talks, but seen as expert in conflict resolution

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

Fernando Gentilini, the European Union's designated Middle East peace envoy (photo credit: CC BY ResoluteSupportMedia/Flickr)
Fernando Gentilini, the European Union's designated Middle East peace envoy (photo credit: CC BY ResoluteSupportMedia/Flickr)

The European Union is expected to appoint an Italian-born diplomat as the group’s new chief envoy to the Middle East peace process, The Times of Israel has learned.

Fernando Gentilini, who previously served as the EU’s special representative in Kosovo, has never been directly involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but sources say the Europeans appointed him because he’s an expert on mediation and conflict resolution.

Gentilini’s appointment is to be announced by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, on Monday at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

As new EU special representative to Middle East peace process, Gentilini would succeed the German-born Andreas Reinicke, who served in that capacity between February 2012 and June 2013.

Sources in Jerusalem said Gentilini has no background in Middle East affairs and that, as of now, it is unclear what mandate he will receive. Therefore, the sources added, it is impossible to know what to expect from his appointment.

Reinicke’s mandate included contributing “to achieving the EU’s policy objectives in the region, including a comprehensive peace, a two‑state solution and a settlement of the Israeli‑Syrian and Israeli‑Lebanese conflicts.” It is unclear whether Gentilini will receive the same mandate.

The EU’s special representative to Middle East peace process will act as the EU envoy to the Middle East Quartet.

As opposed to previous diplomats who filled that role, Gentilini is not a diplomat from a member state switching to the EU but has been working within the union’s External Action Service for over a decade.

Born in Rome in 1962, Gentilini become the EU foreign policy chief’s special envoy to Kosovo in 2004. Later he served as NATO senior civilian representative in Afghanistan. Currently, he is the director for Western Europe, Western Balkans and Turkey at the EU’s External Action Service.

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