EU leaders are prepared to recognise state of Palestine
Europe's foreign ministers have threatened to recognise an independent Palestinian state to punish Israel's refusal to halt "illegal" Jewish settlements.
A text, leaked to journalists, warned of EU "readiness, when appropriate, to recognise a Palestinian state", increasing international pressure on Israel following the effective collapse of direct peace talks last week.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called "on the EU to take a step towards recognition of the state of Palestine based on the 1967 borders".
There has been a week of intense EU diplomacy after an initiative by the so-called "quintet" of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the US, to push Israel into negotiations.
"There is growing frustration with Israel after its refusal to commit to a new settlements freeze and patience is running out," said a European diplomat.
During talks over the weekend, EU countries, including the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Sweden, Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg and Finland urged a tougher EU stance.
Some argued that unless Israel reinstated a ban on new Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories by spring then the EU should recognise an independent state of Palestine with a seat at the UN. The hardening EU line has heightened Israeli fears that the Palestinian leadership is gaining support for its efforts to take charge of its own destiny after more than 40 years of occupation.
Earlier this month, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay defied US displeasure and Israeli lobbying by recognising a Palestinian state on territory captured during the Six Day War of 1967.
In a letter to Baroness Aston, the EU foreign minister, the Palestinian Authority "affirmed the need for a EU recognition of two states along the 1967 borders and to oblige the Israeli government to completely halt settlement activity".
Israel secured a partial diplomatic victory, with British support, yesterday after the EU statement was watered down. But a communique agreed by all Europe's foreign ministers hinted that recognition of Palestine was a future option.
"We welcome the World Bank's assessment that 'if the Palestinian Authority maintains its current performance it is well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future'," said the EU statement. © Daily Telegraph, London)