EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy (R) poses with President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres prior to their working session on March 6, 2013 at the EU Headquarters in Brussels. Photo by Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images.
March 07, 2013
The Israeli president, Shimon Peres, asked the EU on Wednesday to act against Hamas and not to consider settlements in the occupied West Bank an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
During a one-hour meeting with EU Chief Herman Van Rompuy, Peres said that the EU has to act against Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip and that it is the reason for terrorism in the region.
“The EU can help us in putting an end to terror by condemning Hamas because they are the centre of terror,” Peres said. Peres also spoke about Hezbollah and the Iranian nuclear program as a threat to the region.
Rompuy, who warmly welcomed Israel’s president, hailed the EU-Israeli relations and said that there were several steps being taken to improve them. “We appreciate their [relations] relevance and richness,” Van Rompuy said, adding that they agreed “to seek further ways to expand them.”
Nevertheless, he criticised Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank and called settlement expansion “illegal.”
However, Peres dismissed the criticism and blamed the deadlock in the peace process as the main reason for tension in the region. He went on to assert that the settlement issue was resolved through a land swap agreement.
Peres seemed optimistic over the resumption of peace negotiations after the recent US and Israeli elections. He said: “I don’t think the opportunity to make peace is over. There is a new chance to reopen negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”
On his part, Rompuy explained the EU position on the peace process: “I underlined the EU’s determination to continue supporting the peace process through its various instruments … as well as its commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to vital threats in the region,” Rompuy said.
“There will be no sustainable peace until the Palestinian’s aspirations for statehood and sovereignty and those of Israelis for security are fulfilled through a comprehensive and negotiated peace based on the two-State solution,” he added.
Media Release, European Council
March 06, 2013
Let me first of all warmly welcome President Peres to the European Union. His first visit ever to the European Council as President of Israel.
Mr. President, you have contributed decisively to developing your country as a modern and democratic nation. Through the historic Oslo Accords, already 20 years ago, you also opened the way to the peaceful resolution of the conflict with Palestine. For it, together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, you were rightfully awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Your visit honours us. Your vision and wisdom are today more necessary and important than ever. Indeed the international community and particularly the Middle East are living challenging times. Your region is experiencing momentous changes and facing difficult, in some cases dramatic, situations. While these developments entail grave risks -and human suffering, particularly in Syria, needs to be halted immediately-, they also offer opportunities.
Opportunities to move towards healthier and more stable relations among neighbours based on cooperation and mutual respect.
The European Union is following these events closely. They affect directly our security and our interests. And we want to contribute as best we can to the stabilisation, democratisation and development of the region. We are convinced that Israel can play a key role in this regard. And we wish to increase our dialogue on these issues. Your visit, Mr. President, will undoubtedly contribute to this.
President Peres and I have just had a first candid exchange on these issues which we will now follow over a working dinner. We have also examined our bilateral relations, appreciated their relevance and richness.
We agreed on the need to seek further ways to expand them. At the same time, I have explained to President Peres the clear positions taken by the Council as regards the Middle East Peace Process and the European Union’s conviction that bold and concrete steps need to be taken now. The parties have to engage in direct and substantial negotiations. There will be no sustainable peace until the Palestinians’ aspirations for statehood and sovereignty and those of Israelis for security are fulfilled through a comprehensive and negotiated peace based on the two-State solution. For these reasons, I have recalled the opposition of the European Union to the illegal expansion of settlements.
Finally, I underlined the European Union’s determination to continue supporting the peace process through its various instruments, political, economic and crisis management, as well as its commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to vital threats in the region. To achieve these goals the European Union will continue working with the United States and other international partners, including within the Quartet. Once again Mr. President, many thanks for your visit.
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