EU's Borrell calls for two-state solution through support for an Arab plan

Foreign affairs chief says talks with regional states on a proposal are under way but warns ‘the West Bank is boiling'

Josep Borrell told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday of the 'need to promote a political solution' in the Middle East. AFP
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Josep Borrell, the EU foreign affairs representative, on Sunday called for a joint initiative with Arab countries to promote a two-state solution after the Gaza-Israel war has ended.

Mr Borrell said the EU needed to "support the Arab initiative" to establish a Palestinian state, including the West Bank and Gaza. "

We have been discussing [this] a lot with Arabs and we wait for a proposal from their side that, we Europeans, could support in order to make the two-state solution something implementable," he told the Munich Security Conference.

Mr Borrell spoke as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal for international recognition of such a state. US reports said President Joe Biden's administration and a small group of Arab nations were working on a comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Since the start of the war on October 7, the number of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the West Bank has increased and Mr Borrell said the collapse of the refugee agency UNRWA would have bleak consequences.

"We need to promote a political solution," Mr Borrell said. "A comprehensive one, which includes not only Gaza but also the West Bank.

"The West Bank is boiling. The level of violence against the Palestinians has been increasing since October 7. It was already very high before that.

"And if now UNRWA has to stop supporting the Palestinian people in the West Bank, we could be on the eve of a greater explosion."

Looking to the European record of rallying behind Ukraine when it was invaded two years ago, Mr Borrell said a similar spirit was needed on the issue of peace in Gaza.

"If we want to play a geopolitical role in this issue, we have to be more united, as we have been in the case of Ukraine, where with maybe the exception of a single country our unity has been remarkable," he said. "But here I see that there is a dispersion of approaches and many member states want to play own game."

Without hope of a state of their own, the Palestinians would be consigned to a cycle of failure and instability that would be perpetuated, he said.

"Without a clear prospect for the Palestinian people, [there] will not be peace in the Middle East and the security of Israel will not be ensured just by military means," he said.

As a wake-up call, Mr Borrell said every European needed to realise they were in a war situation and back the bloc to step up and play its geopolitical role. The divide between Europeans and the developing world has been widened by the Gaza conflict and he warned against a world of us and them. "We are accused of double standards, the wind is against us."

Labouring on a ceasefire

Also in Munich, the British Labour Party foreign affairs representative David Lammy acknowledged the pressure on the party to strengthen its stance on a ceasefire. “You can have a ceasefire that lasts for a few days," he told UK radio from Munich. "We want the ceasefire to last and to be permanent and to move towards the diplomatic solution. It will only be a political solution that brings an end to this.

“We all want to see an end to the fighting, it must stop.”

Keir Starmer, the party leader, met Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, and a host of other leaders at the weekend. He also refused to commit to a call for an immediate ceasefire. "What we all want to see [is] an end to the fighting, not just now, not just for a pause, but permanently. A ceasefire that lasts, that is what must happen now."

Updated: February 19, 2024, 3:55 AM