EU urges Netanyahu to accept Palestinian state

The European Union urged Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister-designate, to accept Palestinian calls for statehood, something he has long voiced his opposition to. Europeans warn that EU-Israel ties will suffer if he does not.


AFP  - The European Union on Friday told Israel's incoming new government that there would be "consequences" if it does not accept the principle of a Palestinian state

"Relations would become very difficult indeed," said Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

"At one of our next ministerial meetings we would have to discuss what consequences the EU would draw from that," he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with his European Union counterparts at Hluboka castle in the southern Czech Republic.

Schwarzenberg did not elaborate.

One thing that could be jeopardised would be an idea to formally upgrade EU-Israeli ties.

Israel's hawkish prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, of the right-wing Likud party, plans to present his new government to parliament next week, following the Labour party's decision to join his coalition, which includes other right-wing and religious formations.

The United States has warned that peace efforts, which have barely budged in recent years, will not be any easier under the hardline Netanyahu, who opposes the creation of a Palestinian state.

Several other EU foreign ministers judged that an Israeli government which does not accept a two-sate solution would not be acceptable itself.

"We Europeans believe that the putting in place of a two-state solution remains the plan," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"The foreign ministers must send a clear message saying that if this is not the case, the EU cannot accept it," added Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn.


Last year the EU decided to enhance ties with Israel but the idea has been a dead letter since the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

Earlier the European Commission pledged to support the new Israeli government as long as it accepts certain benchmarks, including the principle of an autonomous Palestinian state.

"The European Commission is looking forward to working with the new Israeli government in pursuit of a common agenda," the EU executive's head Jose Manuel Barroso said in a message to Netanyahu.

"It stands ready to assist and support you in your search for peace, prosperity and security for the people in Israel and the region, based on the vision of two states living side by side in peace and prosperity," he said.

The Europeans are the biggest donors of aid to the Palestinians but they hold little sway over Israel, which is backed firmly by the United States.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, on a visit to Brussels, said he hoped that the new government would tone down the rhetoric that its parties have used while they were in opposition.

"If those statements are carried on in the government and they become government policy, then I have to warn that things would turn for the worse and it would create more suffering," he told reporters.

"It is for that reason that I believe that the Israeli leaders, when they form the government, will act responsibly."


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