Luxembourg FM: UAE ‘let down’ the Palestinians with Israel deal

Breaking ranks with EU, Jean Asselborn says Emiratis prioritized economic interests, security over solidarity with Palestinians; says no stability in region until 2-state solution

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

Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, June 25, 2012 (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, June 25, 2012 (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

While most of Europe welcomed last week’s bombshell announcement on the normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg’s foreign minister criticized the deal, suggesting Abu Dhabi was abandoning its Palestinian brethren.

“I also know because I have many contacts in this region, that there is a fear of Iran, but I think you can’t just let your own brothers down in order to pursue economic interests and perhaps also have more security for yourself,” Jean Asselborn told Deutschlandfunk, a German radio station.

“The Palestinians, the Palestinian people, who are Arabs, are really caught between the ropes,” he added. “One can see for quite some time that solidarity with the Palestinians is no longer a priority, especially in the Gulf,” the veteran statesman said, according to a translation of the interview carried by the Anadolu news agency.

“As long as there is no two-state solution — I am convinced of that — there will be no stability, not even among the Gulf states.”

Asselborn, 71, has been Luxembourg’s foreign minister for the last 16 years and is Europe’s longest-serving top diplomat. He has long been a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, and in recent months assumed the role of one of the European Union’s most vocal opponents of Israel’s plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank — second, perhaps, only to the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

Annexation would be a violation of the Ten Commandments, he argued repeatedly.

“I am not an expert in theology, but I think that in all cultures and religions, there is a well-established norm against theft. This is one of the basic norms of human coexistence and a fundamental principle of international law. The acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible,” he told The Times of Israel in June.

“Notwithstanding the Ten Commandments,” he added, “seizing territory by force is a violation of Israel’s obligations under the UN Charter as well as the Geneva Conventions, and goes against a host of UN Security Council resolutions.”

Despite Asselborn’s apparent misgivings about the Israel-UAE deal, his government backed a statement issued by Borrell on behalf of the EU’s 27 member states that welcomed the agreement.

“Israel and the United Arab Emirates are both important partners of the European Union. A normalization of their bilateral relations will be beneficial to both countries and a fundamental step for the stabilization of the region as a whole,” the statement read. “We remain committed to a comprehensive and lasting peace for the entire region and stand ready to work to this end together with our regional and international partners.”

The statement said Israel’s pledge to suspend plans to unilaterally annex parts of the West is “a positive step,” adding that unilateral steps that would undermine the prospects for peace “should be avoided.”

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