In fresh rebuke for Trump, EU says its Jerusalem stance is unchanged
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In fresh rebuke for Trump, EU says its Jerusalem stance is unchanged

Text reportedly softened version of French draft; bloc head Donald Tusk says leaders remain committed to two-state solution

European Council President Donald Tusk poses for a picture prior to the start of a European union summit in Brussels, on December 14, 2017. (AFP/ ludovic MARIN)
European Council President Donald Tusk poses for a picture prior to the start of a European union summit in Brussels, on December 14, 2017. (AFP/ ludovic MARIN)

European Union leaders on Thursday rejected US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, saying they are sticking by their view that the city’s status should be settled by negotiation.

Trump’s administration was widely criticized earlier this month when it officially recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, insisting that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue. The president, whose move was hailed by Israel, described his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality. Palestinians say the recognition effectively ignores their claim to the eastern half of the city as the capital of their future state.

“EU leaders reiterate firm commitment to the two-state solution and, in this context, the EU position on Jerusalem remains unchanged,” EU President Donald Tusk tweeted after the leaders of the bloc’s 28 countries discussed the matter at a summit in Brussels.

The EU has voiced alarm at the US decision, with foreign policy head Federica Mogherini warning last week that it could take the situation “backwards to even darker times.”

But Thursday’s statement by the bloc’s heads of state and government adds fresh weight to the criticism of Trump’s move, which upended seven decades of US policy on Jerusalem and triggered protests across the Islamic world.

The statement still fell short of a sharper text lobbied for by French President Emmanuel Macron, according to Israel’s Channel 10 news.

Upon arriving at the EU summit Thursday, Macron told reporters that he would see if the council would agree to a joint position on the matter.

“I think it is useful to have a discussion during this council,” he said.

According to the report, Israel had been working to try and torpedo the French text, and was helped by the Czech Republic and Hungary in softening it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Macron  earlier this week and reportedly told him Israel would be willing to make concessions for a peace deal while maintaining that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem would advance the possibility of a deal.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives for their meeting at the European Council in Brussels on December 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Eric Vidal)

The EU has long maintained that the only way to peace is two states — Israel and Palestine — with Jerusalem as the capital of both and the borders returned to their status before the 1967 Six Day War. Most of the international community has insisted that the status of Jerusalem be worked out as part of a final status agreement and has refrained from recognizing it as Israel’s capital.

Netanyahu earned a stern rebuff from Mogherini in Brussels on Monday when he suggested Europe would follow Washington’s lead on Jerusalem.

“I believe that all or most of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace,” Netanyahu said.

Shortly after Netanyahu left Brussels, Mogherini said he should “keep his expectations for others.”

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