EU Foreign Ministers back French peace initiative on Israel-Palestinian conflict

By i24

June 23, 2016
The European Union's Foreign Affairs Council, made up of the 28 foreign ministers of the EU's member states, on Monday adopted a resolution endorsing a French-led peace initiative calling for an international peace conference and the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations by the end of the year, Israel's Ha'aretz daily newspaper reported. "The Council welcomes the Joint Communiqué on the Middle East peace initiative adopted at the Ministerial meeting in Paris on 3 June 2016," the ministers said in a joint statement issued following their meeting in Brussels on Monday. "The Council reiterates its support for a just, sustainable and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and peace and stability in the region." The Foreign Affairs Council was asked to assemble proposals for economic, security, and diplomatic incentives over the next few months, aimed at persuading the Israelis and Palestinians to move forward with the peace process. 
Despite Israel's opposition, the ministers' communique on the matter included reference to a December 2013 proposal, in which the EU would upgrade Israel's diplomatic status to "special and preferred partner". "The EU is determined, alongside other international and regional partners, to bring a concrete and substantial contribution to a global set of incentives for the parties to make peace," the statement said. "The Council also reaffirms the European proposal, as endorsed in the Council Conclusions of December 2013, of an unprecedented package of political, economic and security support to be offered to and developed with both parties in the context of a final status agreement."  Israel has clarified that it objects to any connection between the French initiative and the 2013 proposal.
The statement called on both the Israelis and Palestinians "to demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to a peaceful solution in order to rebuild mutual trust and create conditions for direct and meaningful negotiations aiming at ending the occupation that began in 1967, and resolving all permanent status issues."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected and criticized the French initiative, calling instead for direct negotiations between the two sides. "Such initiatives only remote the peace process further, allowing the Palestinians to avoid direct negotiations," Israel's foreign ministry said in a statement following the EU resolution. Palestinians leaders say years of negotiations with Israel have not ended its occupation and have as a result pursued a strategy of diplomacy at international bodies. 
Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.