EU can't call for ceasefire in Gaza until US does, says Irish Prime Minister

Brussels to draw up list of extremist Israeli settlers to ban from EU

Leo Varadkar said there was 'no point in coming up with interim language' calling for 'rolling truces or on and off pauses'  as he left the Brussels summit. AP
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The European Union is unlikely to call for a ceasefire in Gaza until the US paves the way, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday after EU leaders failed to agree on new wording about the conflict.

Deep divisions between member states over the war persisted during the two-day European Council summit, despite calls from a majority of leaders to join forces in requesting a ceasefire.

There was “no point in coming up with interim language” calling for “rolling truces or on and off pauses”, said Mr Varadkar as he left the Brussels summit that was dominated by talks on Ukraine.

In October, just weeks after the start of the conflict that has since claimed close to 19,000 Palestinian lives, EU leaders unanimously agreed on calling for “humanitarian corridors and pauses”.

Most EU countries felt they should not wait for the US to call for a ceasefire before Europe does “but it feels like we kind of are in that space at the moment”, said Mr Varadkar.

He had previously said the EU's failure to find consensus on the conflict was affecting its credibility on the world stage.

Red Sea focus

French President Emmanuel Macron said there should be less focus on words and more on action to improve security as he called for a concerted effort to counter Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Houthi attacks on international ships have spiked with the Israel-Gaza conflict.

France’s defence ministry on Tuesday said it had intercepted a Houthi drone launched at a Norwegian tanker.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Macron told reporters that he had made a proposal to improve European co-ordination at sea and “fight against these terrorist actions”.

“We're more useful doing that than with common texts with words since there's a war,” he said.

EU countries, however, unanimously continue to support Israel's right to defend itself, said European Council President Charles Michel.

The latest conflict was triggered by a Hamas-led attack on Israel that killed about 1,139 Israelis on October 7.

“It's true that among council members there are different feelings linked to the idea of a humanitarian pause,” Mr Michel told reporters.

A majority of EU countries backed a ceasefire at the most recent UN General Assembly vote on the matter.

Eight countries, including Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, abstained. The Czech Republic and Austria opposed the resolution.

So far, the US, Israel's strongest ally, has led the international diplomatic response to the conflict.

There have been reports that the US is pushing Israel to end the current high-intensity phase of its war on Gaza.

Violent Israeli settler ban

The US also said it would bar access to its territory to extremist Israeli settlers who have attacked Palestinians living in the West Bank.

The move has yet to be replicated at EU level.

France, Belgium, and Ireland have said they would be in favour of applying such restrictions without EU backing if the 27 countries cannot find consensus.

Leaders on Friday asked the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell to draw up a list of settlers to ban from EU soil to submit to foreign affairs ministers for discussion, said Mr Varadkar.

Ireland wouldn't impose a ban unilaterally but would do it with a group of other EU countries, he added.

Israelis do not need a visa to travel to the EU.

In parallel, several countries have said they want to crack down against Hamas networks in Europe.

A series of arrests in connection to a terror plot in Europe were announced on Thursday by Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

German prosecutors said they had arrested four senior Hamas members that were attempting to move weapons to Berlin to later attack Jewish sites in Europe.

It was not immediately clear whether Denmark and Germany had co-operated on the raid.

Israel's Mossad spy agency said Denmark had exposed “Hamas infrastructure on European soil”.

Denmark, however, did not confirm links to Hamas, which denied those held were connected to the group.

France's foreign affairs ministry also said its political directors held a meeting to target the group's financing and “online propaganda”.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna is scheduled to travel over the weekend to Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Updated: December 16, 2023, 3:21 AM