EU's Tusk cancels Mideast trip for 'critical' Brexit talks

Brussels (AFP) –


EU President Donald Tusk has cancelled a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories this week because talks on a Brexit deal are in a "critical" phase, his spokesman said Monday.

"Due to a critical moment in the Brexit talks and due to consultations on draft guidelines for the second phase" the trip from Tuesday to Wednesday has been called off, Tusk's spokesman Preben Aamann told AFP.

Tusk had been due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday night, and Palestinian Authority prime minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah on Wednesday, according to his official schedule published last week.

Tusk is meeting British Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels on Monday as May tries to seal a divorce agreement that would allow Brexit negotiations to move on to the second phase, dealing with trade and transition talks.

The European Commission is set to decide whether Britain has made enough progress on Wednesday, and, if so, ambassadors from the remaining EU 27 countries will meet the same day to draw up guidelines for the next stage.

Former Polish premier Tusk then chairs an EU summit on December 15 where leaders would sign off any deal.

His diary is now clear until Friday when he is scheduled to travel to Hungary.