The foreign ministers of the European Union’s 28 member states have issued a joint declaration backing the recently launched French-led Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.
The European Union’s 28 foreign ministers endorsed on Monday the French-led initiative to hold a multilateral conference to restart Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council adopted the resolution to back the French initiative and reiterated “its support for a just, sustainable and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and peace and stability in the region,” according to a statement released following the decision.
“The Council welcomes the Joint Communiqué on the Middle East peace initiative adopted at the Ministerial meeting in Paris on 3 June 2016,” the ministers said after a meeting in Brussels, adding, “The Council reiterates its support for a just, sustainable, and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and peace and stability in the region.”
Additionally, the EU Foreign Affairs Council said it will provide economic incentives to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
“The EU is determined, alongside other international and regional partners, to bring a concrete and substantial contribution to a global set of incentives for the parties to make peace with a view to an international conference planned to be held before the end of the year,” said the ministers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly opposed the French peace initiative, saying that he prefers direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
“Such initiatives only remote the peace process further, allowing the Palestinians to avoid direct negotiations,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said following the EU statement.
Israel’s expansion of settlements in the occupied territory, considered illegal under international law, has been seen as the main contributor to the deadlock in peace negotiations. Israel’s cabinet on Sunday approved an addition $18.6 million in funding for West Bank settlements.
Since the French initiative began gaining more momentum in recent months, the Israeli government has come out in staunch opposition to the proposed multilateral peace talks.
Netanyahu first rejected the French initiative in April, saying the “best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is through direct, bilateral negotiations.”
The Palestinian Authority, however, has expressed support for the French initiative, something Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated during a phone call with French President Francois Hollande on Saturday.
Abbas stressed his commitment to the two-state solution within the 1967 borders, adding that all illegal settlement activity should be halted and that there should be a timeframe for negotiations under international monitoring.
All past efforts towards peace negotiations have failed to end the decades-long Israeli military occupation or bring Palestinians closer to an independent contiguous state.
The most recent spate of negotiations led by the US collapsed in April 2014.
Israel claimed the process failed because the Palestinians refused to accept a US framework document outlining the way forward, while Palestinians pointed to Israel’s ongoing settlement building and the government’s refusal to release veteran prisoners.