EU seeks Israeli policy change

The European Union stepped up pressure on Israel to end a ban on talks with EU officials and diplomats who have met Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

    Shalom (L) and Solana likely to express stark differences of opinion

    EU foregin policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday that the 15-member bloc wanted to get the Middle East "road map" back on track above all.

    The road map was drawn up by a quartet comprising the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia and seeks a two-state solution to the conflict.
    "For that we think it is important that our envoys and myself and all the ministers have the opportunity to see all the people who have a say in this process, including Palestinians at all levels," he told reporters in Brussels. 


    Apartheid wall

    But the EU is also likely to address other sensitive issues as well, vowing to discuss Israel’s wall along the West Bank during the two-day meeting in Brussels.

    “Europe ... must play a more balanced attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Otherwise it will be more of the same, like it was in the last 30 years"

    Javier Solana,
    Israeli foreign minister

    Solana was adamant that he planned to make this point very clearly at Monday's talks, adding that the Israelis "are cooperating but not in the sense we would like ... We would like to have much more cooperation and much more trust." 
    The foreign policy chief added: "We think if the fence continues, the [Zionist] settlements continue, it will be very difficult to realise the two states approach," referring to the road map's aim of Israel and a Palestinian state living peacefully side by side.

    Israeli view

    But visiting Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told EU foreign ministers on Monday they would have to have a fundamental change in attitude if they wanted to improve relations.

    Speaking ahead of meetings with ministers who are likely to press him notably over a ban on contacts with EU Mideast envoy Marc Otte, Shalom insisted Israel "would like to do everything we can in order to cooperate with the EU”.

    “Europe can play a key role in the peace process, but it must play a more balanced attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Otherwise it will be more of the same, like it was in the last 30 years."

    Despite some sharp differences of opinion, Shalom said he was hopeful for progress as he had personally overseen a fundamental overhaul in Tel Aviv's relations with the 15-member EU.
    "I myself since I first came to office said that I don't accept the formula that had existed for so long - that Israel can live without Europe and that Europe can live without Israel." 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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