At the start of the first Israel-European Union Association Council meeting in a decade, the EU chooses to highlight areas of disagreement, especially Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
“We will discuss frankly and openly about some specific issues which are of our mutual concern,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says in Brussels. “I am talking about the situation in the Palestinian territories and the Middle East peace process which is stalled.”
Prime Minister Yair Lapid has touted the meeting as a victory for his diplomatic approach, which seeks to expand channels of dialogue even when the two sides don’t agree on all issues. The premier did not make the trip, instead calling on Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern to lead the Israeli delegation. Lapid is dialing in from Israel.
“All in all, today is a good occasion to show our determination to have a positive and fruitful relationship with Israel, pushing for peace,” Borrell says.
Borrell says Lapid’s support for a two-state solution during his address to the UN General Assembly last week was “very important.”
“We want the resumption of a political process that can lead to a two-state solution and a comprehensive regional peace,” Borrell says. Borrell also acknowledges that the two sides disagree on EU-mediated efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. “For the time being in any case, those negotiations are stalled,” he adds.
The Association Council is a meeting that was meant to occur annually between Israel and the EU to cover matters of mutual concern. The last time the two sides met was in 2012. Lapid — during his recent stint as foreign minister — made it a goal to reconvene the forum.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declines to respond to Borrell’s opening remarks.