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EU offers closer links with Palestine/ Israel if Israel stops wrecking tactics

The last of eight Palestinian houses to be demolished in the West Bank village of Na’run. Peace Now found that 94% of Palestinian permit applications for Area C building were refused between 2000 and September 2007. Only 91 permits were granted to Palestinians, but 18,472 housing units were built in Jewish settlements. As a result of demolition orders 1,663 Palestinian buildings were demolished, against only 199 in the settlements. Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty images.

The EU offers Israel and the Palestinians what it calls an ‘unprecedented’ package support if they reach final status agreement

By Yossi Lempkowicz, European Jewish Press (EJP)
December 16, 2013

After meeting in Brussels on Monday, European Union Foreign Ministers said that in the event of a final peace agreement the EU will offer Israel and the future state of Palestine a “Special Privileged Partnership” including increased access to the European markets, closer cultural and scientific links, facilitation of trade and investments as well as promotion of business to business relations.

BRUSSELS (EJP)—The EU is ready to provide an “unprecedented” package of European political, economic and security support to Israel and the Palestinians if both parties reach a final status agreement in peace talks they started in July.

After meeting in Brussels on Monday, European Union Foreign Ministers said that in the event of a final peace agreement the EU will offer Israel and the future state of Palestine a “Special Privileged Partnership” including increased access to the European markets, closer cultural and scientific links, facilitation of trade and investments as well as promotion of business to business relations.

“Enhanced political dialogue and security cooperation will also be offered to both states,” the EU Foreign Ministers said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Commending the “tireless engagement by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the leadership shown by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the EU Foreign Ministers stressed that current peace talks represent a ‘unique opportunity’ which must be seized for both parties to implement a two-state solution.’’

“A one state reality would not be compatible with the legitimate sovereign and democratic aspirations of both parties,” they said.

They also warned against actions “that undermine the negotiations,” deploring “Israel’s continuous expansion of settlements, which are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace.”

The Foreign Affairs Council also expressed its “grave concern regarding incitement, incidents of violence in the occupied territory, house demolitions and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

“The EU expresses its serious concern about actions that undermine the status quo of the holy sites, including in Jerusalem. The European Union will continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly.”

In a reaction to the EU’s package offer, an Israeli diplomatic source quoted by The Times of Israel said: “These are empty words, meaningless generalities. The offer, the way it looks now, has no concrete content at all and seems somewhat unrealistic.”

“If they really wanted to make their mark on the peace process they would have come up with something a bit more tangible.”

Israel has already a free-trade association agreement with the EU.

EU warns Israel not to announce new settlement building after prisoner release

Ambassadors call urgent meeting at Foreign Ministry, warning that Israel will be held responsible for failure of talks.

By Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz
December 17, 2013

The European Union is pressuring Israel and the Palestinians to make progress in the peace talks. The five largest EU states told Israel on Monday that if it declares construction of new settlements after the planned release of Palestinian prisoners at the end of this month, and the talks collapse, Israel will be held responsible.

Earlier Monday, foreign ministers of the 28 European Union member states passed a resolution – whose draft was first published in Haaretz last Friday – stating that in the case of a peace treaty, both Israel and the Palestinians would receive an “unprecedented package” of economic, political and security aid, and both sides’ relations with the EU would be upgraded to “special privileged partnership,” the top status of a nonmember state of the EU.

A senior European diplomat said that several hours after the resolution was passed, the ambassadors to Israel of Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain requested an urgent meeting with Nissim Ben-Shitrit, the acting director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The European message to Ben-Shitrit was coordinated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who might return to the region this week for yet another round of talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

Kerry is hoping to present both sides, by the end of January, with a framework for a treaty that would address all core issues – borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, water and settlements.

The dual EU message offers both carrot and stick. A senior EU diplomat said the two messages were equally powerful and were conveyed equally in conversation.

“We gave you an offer which is truly unprecedented. We are really serious about the offer, and we ask that you don’t underestimate it. We are ready to discuss with you right now how the future of EU-Israel relations might look if there is movement toward peace,” the ambassadors told Ben-Shitrit.

While stressing the possible benefits of a peace treaty, the ambassadors also focused on the third group of Palestinian prisoners, due to be released on December 29. They noted their extreme concern that Israel would announce new tenders for construction of thousands of housing units in the settlements, as it did following the two previous rounds of prisoner releases.

“New announcements of settlement activity after the third round of prisoner releases at the end of the month might be a fatal blow for the peace process,” the ambassadors said, requesting that Israel refrain from such a move, adding that if such a move would lead to the end of the talks, Israel would be held responsible.

Israeli diplomats in London, Berlin, Rome, Madrid and Paris were also summoned to the respective foreign ministries Monday, where they heard the same message.

On Tuesday, the five EU states will hold similar talks with the Palestinians, with the five consuls in Jerusalem due to meet with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, and Palestinian representatives in Europe due to be summoned to the foreign ministries.

The senior European official said that the message to the Palestinians would be equally severe, and that the Palestinians would be made to understand that they, too, would pay dearly for the failure of the talks, and must bear that in mind before carrying out hasty steps.

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