Cohen buries hatchet with EU foreign policy czar Borrell

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, left, with EU counterpart Josep Borrell in Brussels, Belgium, on May 2, 2023. (Johanna Géron/Israel Embassy Brussels)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, left, with EU counterpart Josep Borrell in Brussels, Belgium, on May 2, 2023. (Johanna Géron/Israel Embassy Brussels)

Seemingly putting a strained personal relationship behind them, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell meet in Brussels, with Cohen inviting the Spanish diplomat to Israel after Israel made it clear in recent weeks that he would not be welcomed.

According to Cohen, the two agree to hold the annual Association Council meeting between EU foreign ministers and Cohen in Jerusalem. However, the EU readout – which came out simultaneously with the Israeli, another sign of accord – only says that Borrell is “hoping for another meeting of the Association Council this year.”

The 27 EU member states still have to approve the Association Council taking place, but since it happened last year, there is unlikely to be much pushback.

Borrell also condemns recent rocket and terrorist attacks against Israel and reiterates Israel’s right to defend itself, while reminding Israel that “any response must be proportionate and in line with international law.”

Borrell, seen by Israel as one of the more adversarial figures at the top of the EU institutions, stresses the EU’s call for Israel to stop “measures that could heighten the already high level of tension and jeopardize the very possibility of a future just and sustainable peace based on the two State solution“ and the importance of respecting the status quo in Jerusalem.

Cohen says that Israel is “opening a new page in its relations with the EU.”
He also demands that Borrell issue a clear denunciation of the Palestinian Authority paying the salaries of terrorists. He also calls for renewed EU sanctions on Iran.

In March, after Borrell published an article that Israel said equated Israeli victims of terror with terrorists killed by the IDF, Cohen condemned the comments in a tense phone call with Borrell, and indicated that it would not be a good time for the EU diplomat to visit.

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