US, Canada and Spain express concern over kidnapping

Madrid says teenagers abducted ‘for political reasons,’ calls on Jerusalem to ‘avoid unilateral acts or disproportionate responses’

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, seen here during a visit to Israel in February 2012 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defence/Flash90)
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, seen here during a visit to Israel in February 2012 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defence/Flash90)

As of Saturday night, a handful of governments in America and Europe had expressed concern over the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers Thursday night, and called for their prompt release.

“Canada is deeply concerned by reports that three Israeli teenagers may have been kidnapped in the West Bank, and condemns those aiming to instigate conflict,” Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement Saturday. “We urge the Palestinian security authorities, who have been trained through Canadian and US leadership, to make every effort to investigate this incident and work diligently to ensure the safe return of these children to their families.

“We call for the immediate release of the three Israeli teenagers. Whoever has taken this action must be found and brought to justice,” he said.

Spain also expressed concern about the three teenagers, who it said were kidnapped “for political reasons,” and called for their speedy return.

“Spain condemns any acts of violence or intimidation such as this on, or the launching of rockets into the territory of Israel territory, which could endanger the peace and prospects for a return to the path of dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis,” the Foreign Ministry in Madrid said in a statement.

“In times when the process of conversations during the parties is interrupted it is crucial to maintain restraint and avoid unilateral acts or disproportionate responses that jeopardize the goal of a peace based on two states, Israel and Palestine that could coexist in peace and security,” the statement said.

Making his first public statement on the abductions on Saturday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected calls to resume the peace talks with the Palestinians and criticized the international community for welcoming the recently established Palestinian unity government, which is backed by Hamas.

“There is no possibility of talking peace with Israel while, at the same time, establishing a unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization that aspires to destroy Israel,” he said. “Those same elements in the international community that said that the Palestinian agreement with Hamas would advance peace now see the true results of this union.”

On Friday, US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said that Washington was “very concerned” about the well-being of the kidnapped teenagers: Gil-ad Shaar, 16, from the settlement of Talmon; Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon near Modi’in; and Eyal Yifrach, 19, from Elad near Petah Tikva.

Israel said Frenkel was a dual US-Israeli citizen, but Harf said she could not confirm that fact. She also said that Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the issue.

“We are working with the government of Israel and with the Palestinian Authority to try to ensure the situation is resolved quickly, and that the three teenagers are safely reunited with their families, Harf said. “What we know is the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority are working closely together on efforts to find the three teenagers and to hopefully bring a quick resolution to the matter, and of course giving this cooperation our full encouragement.”

Also on Friday, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, tweeted that he was “deeply concerned” about the reported kidnapping, adding that he was “[h]oping for their safe return.”

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