EU floats plan to ‘relaunch’ Middle East peace process

Europe’s high representative for foreign affairs has said the bloc will discuss its plan in March

FILE PHOTO: Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, holds a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

EU officials have discussed how best to “relaunch” the Middle East peace process in response to US President Donald Trump’s designs on the region.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc’s foreign affairs council discussed how to present a plan that could be agreed to by Palestine and Israel.

The Palestinian leadership has wholly dismissed Washington’s proposals.

"We had an exchange of views about the Middle East peace process after the presentation of the US proposal," Mr Borrell said.

"We briefly discussed how best to relaunch a political process that is acceptable to both parties and how best to defend the internationally agreed parameters, equal rights and international law."

The EU has been slow to co-ordinate its response to the US plan released in January but Mr Borrell, in particular, has pointed out flaws in it.

He said several foreign ministers had urged that the peace plan be added to the March agenda for the foreign affairs council "with a specific discussion and some resolutions".

"We’ll do it after Israeli elections" on March 2, Mr Borrell said.

Luxembourg has led efforts to co-ordinate the EU response to the US plans, which have effectively given Israel approval to annex large areas of the West Bank.

Nations such as France, Portugal, Spain and Finland have denied reports that they were preparing to recognise Palestinian statehood at meetings ahead of Monday’s foreign affairs council.

The EU’s response to the Middle East peace process has generally been disjointed.

While members such as Sweden, Malta and Cyprus have recognised Palestine, most do not recognise Palestinian statehood.

In response to Mr Trump’s peace deal the EU said it would review its proposals but all indications are that Mr Borrell sought a stronger response.

The foreign policy chief failed to convince all 27 member nations to check the US initiative.

Italy, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic were reportedly among the nations that blocked Mr Borrell’s attempts to issue a shared resolution.

During a recent tour of the Middle East, Mr Borrell reaffirmed Europe’s commitment to a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The US plan, which has been widely criticised by experts, grants control of long-contested West Bank settlements to Israel and proposes a timeline for the creation of a Palestinian capital in the Abu Dis district of East Jerusalem.