EU foreign ministers to meet Israeli, Palestinian counterparts

EU foreign ministers will hold separate talks later today with their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts on the prospects for lasting peace after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected calls for a future Palestinian state.

The 27 EU ministers will first meet with Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz, before sitting down separately with the Palestinian Authority’s top diplomat Riyad al-Maliki.

Katz and Maliki are not expected to meet each other.

Katz and Maliki will also separately address the European Union Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels today, which will also be attended by his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the Arab League Secretary-General.

The meeting is largely devoted to the Middle East but also taking stock of the war in Ukraine.

In addition, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will present a ten-point plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The EU has struggled for a united stance on the conflict in Gaza as staunch backers of Israel such as Germany have rejected demands for an immediate ceasefire made from the likes of Spain and Ireland.

EU officials have sketched out broad conditions for “the day after” the current war ends in Gaza, calling for a cessation to hostilities, the return of the Israeli hostages, an end to Hamas’s rule and a role for the Palestinian Authority in running Gaza.

At the heart of the plan is a call for a “preparatory peace conference” to be organized by the EU, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the League of Arab States, with the United States and United Nations also invited to be conveners of the gathering.

The conference would go ahead even if Israelis or Palestinians declined to take part. But both parties would be consulted at every step of the talks as delegates seek to draw up a peace plan, the document suggests.

The internal document, seen by multiple news organizations including Reuters, makes clear one key goal of a peace plan should be the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, “living side by side with Israel in peace and security”.

In a letter to member states, Borrell wrote that his roadmap will “elaborate, with practical proposals, on the agreed principle that only a political, sustainable, long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will bring peace to the two peoples and stability to the region.”

According to Euronews, Borrell’s plan calls for full normalization between Israel and Arab states and would create an “initial framework” for Israeli-Palestinian peace within one year. There would be “robust security assurances” for both states, and the agreement would be “conditional upon full mutual diplomatic recognition and integration of both Israel and Palestinian in the region.”

Given the division, the 27 EU member states are unlikely to support Borrell’s roadmap.

A high-ranking EU official said there were no expectations of any breakthroughs from the “complex ballet” of diplomacy on Monday.

“The idea is to have a full discussion with all the participants, the Israelis, Palestinians, the Arabs, to exchange points of view and to try to understand better where everybody is,” the official said.

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