Monday, 14 January 2013

EU 'to propose' peace plan to restart Israel-Palestinian talks, after Israel elections

The European Union is drawing up a detailed new plan to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and expects to present it after the general elections in Israel later this month, Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot reported.

The newspaper, which quoted diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, said the plan was intended to "bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital."

The plan will include "clear timetables for the completion of the negotiations on all the core issues in the course of 2013."

The newspaper said the plan is expected to be presented around March, to give time for the formation of a new Israeli government after the general election on January 22.

The newspaper said the plan "apparently will also include a demand to freeze all construction in the settlements."

The report said the British and French Foreign Ministers are sponsoring the initiative, which is also backed by Germany and could be adopted by the full EU.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was said in the report to be considering the option of adopting the plan as the official European stance. The Europeans have apparently already initiated contact with US President Barack Obama and incoming Secretary of state John Kerry regarding the plan as well.

Diplomats cited in the report said that it would be difficult for Obama to oppose the plan, which was said to closely mirror his own stated views on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

At a meeting last week in Amman of the Middle East Quartet, which consists of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia, the EU reportedly wanted to begin deciding on the parameters of the new peace proposal, but US representatives said that they should wait until after the Obama inauguration on January 21 and the Israeli general elections the following day.

Israeli sources received reports that the EU would like to use the plan as the basis for a regional discussion, which would include the participation of Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states. Such a move would force Israel to join a pan-Middle East conference or risk being seen as an obstacle to peace, the report said.

The report was published as Ireland, one of Israel’s harshest critic among the 27-member European Union, assumed since January 1 the six-month rotating EU presidency.

Israel is expecting the EU to adopt a more assertive role in 2013 in trying to break the diplomatic stalemate with the Palestinians, and take an even more critical stance on Israel’s positions, especially on the settlements issue.

During talks Monday in Cairo, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy discussed with Arab League Secretary General Nabil ElAraby the "need for concerted and coordinated actions by all key actors to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

"Now is the time to look forward and to take bold steps towards peace in the Middle East. It is key to relaunch direct and susbtantial negotiations, without preconditions, among the parties in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The aim should be a lasting solution ending all claims," Van Rompuy was quoted as saying in the Egyptian capital.  

"There's a lot in the works behind the scenes," Yediot Aharonot  quoted high-ranking Israeli political officials as saying.

"The Europeans don't have the capability to force an agreement on us, but they definitely may embarrass us," they added.

"It is reasonable to assume that the Palestinians will accept a document of that sort, but Israel will be hard put to do so. That's going to paint us into a corner."

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