President of Palestine visits Brussels amid demand for EU to recognise Palestine as a state

Following the Prime Minister of Israel’s visit in December, President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas attended today’s meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Brussels to discuss regional issues, the peace process between Israel and Palestine, and EU-Palestine relations.

The President asked for the EU to recognise Palestine as a state, and there were calls from some for the EU to negotiate an Association Agreement with Palestine.

Demand to recognise Palestine as a state

Speaking at a joint press conference, President Abbas said that “We truly consider the European Union as a true partner and friend and therefore call upon its member states to swiftly recognise the state of Palestine and we confirm there is no contradiction between recognition and resumption of relations.”

As alluded to by the AFP, the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed that he wants the EU to work towards an official Association Agreement with Palestine, replacing the current interim accord. There is currently no agreement on this among EU officials, so it will be discussed further. As well as that, Palestine does not see an association agreement as a replacement for recognition as a state.

High Representative Mogherini stated that the EU has “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.”

Two state solution based on Jerusalem as a shared capital

Speaking ahead of the meeting, High Representative Federica Mogherini stated that the ministers would discuss “the ways in which the EU can support the restart of the [peace] process” and work towards a two-state solution, reiterating the EU position to have Jerusalem as the capital of both states of Palestine and Israel.

“We, Europeans as well as all the Arab world and the United Nations system as such, still continue to believe that the only pragmatic, realistic solution for Jerusalem has to come through direct negotiations and has to be the capital of two states.”

President Abbas reiterated that Palestine is keen on continuing in the way of negotiations as it is, in the view of the Palestinians, the only way to reach peace between them and Israel.

Context of the meeting

At the December European Council last year, EU leaders reiterated in their summit conclusions that their position on the Middle East peace process remained unchanged, and that peace is based on a two state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital of Israel and Palestine.

Vice President of the USA Mike Pence was coincidentally in Israel before the meeting, again reiterating that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. This comes after the Palestinian President called the USA’s recent decision to announce Jerusalem as the capital of Israel the “slap of the century”.

Image source, Council of the EU

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