EU foreign ministers to meet Israeli, Palestinian counterparts

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

The bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell risked incurring Israel’s wrath by accusing it on Friday of having “created” and “financed” Hamas to undermine the prospect for a possible Palestinian state.

Borrell insisted the only way to get an enduring peace in the region was for a two-state solution to “be imposed from outside”.

Hamas’s surprise attack on Oct. 7 on Israel and the subsequent devastating military response from Israel has plunged the Middle East into fresh turmoil and sparked fears of a broader conflict.

But while the bloodshed appears to have driven a long-term solution further out of sight, EU officials insist now is the time to talk about finally resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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.

The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will also hold talks with the European ministers.

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 no long-term Israeli occupation, an end to Hamas’s rule and a role for the Palestinian Authority in running the territory.

 ‘Complex ballet’ 

The 27-nation bloc, along with the United States, believes the creation of a Palestinian state remains the only viable way to secure a lasting peace.

But Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defied U.S. President Joe Biden by rejecting potential Palestinian sovereignty and saying his country must maintain security control over Gaza.

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.

 Red Sea mission 

Ahead of the discussions, the EU on Friday imposed sanctions on six people over financing of Hamas.

The Islamist movement’s Gaza political chief Yahya Sinwar was added to the EU’s “terrorist” blacklist on Tuesday.

EU countries are also in the process of drawing up sanctions against “extremist” Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

In the face of spiralling violence across the region, EU countries this week gave initial backing to setting up a naval mission to help protect shipping in the Red Sea from attacks by Yemen’s Huthis.

A proposal for the deployment says it could have three frigates and a mandate to defend ships, but not attack the Huthis onshore, like a U.S.-led coalition operating in the region is doing.

EU ministers meeting on Monday are set to discuss the mission, but it is only expected to be finalised next month.

The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium have said they are willing to contribute ships to the mission.

Palestine, diplomats ,

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