The European Union called for wise and consistent decision-making in the Middle East in an apparent rebuke to the United States as the bloc reasserted its support for East Jerusalem as a future capital of a Palestinian state.
Frederica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said the visiting Mahmoud Abbas that the bloc was looking at “strengthening our support” while the President urged members of the 28-nation EU to immediately recognise a state of Palestine.
Mr Abbas travelled to Brussels with talks with foreign ministers on Monday as he sought support from the Palestinians “most important international partner”. It followed the decision by Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital which has inflamed Arab opinion.
Mr Abbas’s visit came as US vice president Mike Pence told Israel’s parliament that it would be move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem earlier than planned and by the end of 2019. The Palestinian leadership has refused to meet with Mr Pence.
Neither Ms Mogherini nor Mr Abbas mentioned the United States in brief comments before the start of their meeting in Brussels. Ms Mogherini restated the EU’s support for the two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital and opposition to Israeli settlement building.
"I want to reassure President Abbas of the firm commitment of the European Union to the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states," she said.
To secure a successful outcome, words needed to be used "wisely and consistently with a sense of responsibility," she told reporters while standing alongside Mr Abbas.
“We have already invested a great deal in the Palestinian state building project and we are also looking at what options we have to strengthen our support from the European Union.”
Earlier, Ms Mogherini told reporters there was a problem with Jerusalem following the US declaration. "I would say this is a very diplomatic euphemism," she said.
Diplomats and officials in Brussels told AFP that recognition for Palestine was not on the cards – the EU leaves recognition in the hands of individual members – and the best Mr Abbas can hope for is progress towards an “association agreement” with the bloc.
Mr Abbas described the EU as a “true partner” but called on its members to recognise the Palestinian state, saying there would be no contradiction in doing that and resuming negotiations.
Sweden became the largest and most significant EU member to recognise the Palestinian state in 2014. Most EU nations have stopped short of recognition with some such as Poland and Hungary having done so before joining the trading bloc.
Mr Abbas last week criticised the efforts of Mr Trump to resolve the long-running conflict, which he described as the “slap of the century” and claimed that Israel had sunk the so-called Oslo accords that underpin the stalled peace process.
Mr Abbas on Monday reasserted his commitment to reaching a negotiated deal and called for the EU to play a greater political role in the peace process that has been effectively frozen since 2014.
“We are determined to reunite our people and our land in order to bring about a single and unified state, a single unified legislation and a single legitimate army,” he said.
The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the EU foreign ministers last month.