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I am particularly glad and happy, and grateful to my good friend Ayman, Minister [of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Jordan, Ayman] Al Safadi, for his visit here in Brussels today. We were in close contact, as always, but in particular in these last days, during and after the announcement by President [of the United States, Donald] Trump on the United States' decision on Jerusalem.
We both agree that it is a decision that has a very worrying potential impact in this very fragile context. We always share with Jordan common work to try and solve the so many crises that are already ongoing in the region. We have just also discussed the situation in Syria; the war is not over yet – and Jordan is probably one of the countries that see this first hand. Tensions are running high in and around the Gulf. And we have not forgotten the victims of terrorist attacks all around the Middle East, including recently in Northern Sinai. So, against this background no one can afford any further destabilisation, and especially those that are living in the region – Jordan is clearly in the midst of the region, Europe very close to it. More violence and chaos are absolutely to be avoided: they are in no one's interest. And, I also spoke yesterday evening with Jared Kushner, the Special Advisor of President [of the United States, Donald] Trump, to stress the European Union position, the disagreement that we have expressed about the decision the United States' administration has taken on Jerusalem.
Today I want, first and foremost, to express my gratitude and the European Union’s full support for Jordan. Jordan has a key role to play, a special role when it comes to the Holy Places. His Majesty the King [Abdullah II] of Jordan, as the custodian of the Holy Places, deserves and needs all our support – and he has the full support of the entire international community, I believe, but for sure of the European Union – in his wise approach to invite to wisdom and calm. I believe that [it is important] – especially today being Friday and we all know how this holiday for the Muslim community all around the word is crucial – to keep the situation under control and avoid any kind of violence. What happens in Jerusalem and in particular what happens in the Holy Places is not only relevant for Jerusalem, and is not only relevant for Muslims - it is relevant for the entire international community, it is relevant for the entire world. And Europe is firmly behind and at the side of Jordan in supporting its moderate, wise role in the region, and in particular to preserve the status quo of the Holy places and work with us on the perspectives of the Peace Process.
I would like to say another word on the Holy Places. We believe that it has been important that President Trump has acknowledged in his speech that the status quo of the Holy Places must be preserved. This is probably the part that we have shared of his message; because today and now the worst possible development could be that bad situation turns into worse and that tensions inflame the region even further. That would be a gift to the extremes and to those that are not interested in peace and in living together. And I think that having Europe and Jordan passing this message today is an important political message.
Coming to the Middle East Peace Process, Jordan and the European Union – but for sure I can speak for the European Union – share a clear position. On the European Union side we have a very clear and united position that I reiterated publicly and to all my interlocutors during the last days and hours. We are convinced that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two States, the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, with Jerusalem as the capital of both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, along the 1967 lines – East-Jerusalem, West-Jerusalem. The European Union position on Jerusalem and on the two-State solution, as I said, is very clear and is very united. We will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem, until the final status of the Holy City is resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.
This is the position I conveyed to our American friends, to the Secretary of State [of the United States, Rex] Tillerson, here in Brussels last Tuesday, to [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas that I called the day before yesterday, to Prime Minister [of Israel, Benjamin] Netanyahu previously; and obviously with Jordan, no need to reiterate that because you know very well where we stand. We will meet Prime Minister [of Israel, Benjamin] Netanyahu here in Brussels with the Foreign Ministers of the 28 Member States on Monday on the margins of the [December] Foreign Affairs Council. And we will have the opportunity to reiterate to him our strong position on this and our expectation that the parties reengage in a meaningful negotiation process. I have also invited [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas to join us for a similar exercise at the first Foreign Affairs Council we will have in January next year, and he has accepted. So beginning of January, we will also have [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas here in Brussels to discuss the Middle East Peace Process perspectives, and the European Union support to that.
As I said, it is a difficult moment. It seems that we have difficult moments after difficult moments. But, when we can count on strong, wise and good friends and partners, especially as Jordan. We know that the possibility for coming out of this crisis with an horizon and a perspective that can bring us to a solution is there. This is why I have suggested yesterday that not only we continue to work within the Quartet – the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations -, but also that we enlarge the Quartet to Jordan, Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other relevant partners like Norway, that has always played a relevant role to work towards the two-State solution.
The European Union will increase its work and is looking forward to working on this political perspective together with you, Ayman, and together with Jordan, and all the other Arab friends that I know will be meeting in Cairo on Saturday. Thank you very much.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I148228
Q. The possible next step of the U.S. administration could be to impose on Palestinians the Israeli sovereignty on the settlements and making the two-state-solution a virtual one. I would like to ask the European Union and also Jordan, as an Arab country and also a crucial player in region: Would you support the Palestinians to address international law now - the United Nations Security Council and maybe the ICC? Because the Oslo accord is dead and the peace negotiation is almost virtual.
I believe that saying the Oslo agreements are dead plays in the hands of those who do not want to see a state of Palestine becoming reality. Let's always remember that the objective of the Oslo Agreement is the creation of two states, which means the creation of a Palestinian state. And this is what the European Union, together with others - but for sure us with a very consistent political and financial support - have consistently worked for and we are continuing to work for that. Oslo has not delivered in full, because so many years after that agreement a Palestinian state is not completely achieved. But it stays our objective and I refuse to say that this is not our objective anymore or that the process is dead.
Maybe we have to look at the process again and we were discussing that - we need to take, let’s say, a different regional international framework to push it forward. But we have to keep the objective very clear and continue to work for that, even with more determination today than at any time before. This is key not only for the Palestinian people - that we will support and we will continue to support and the Palestinian leadership - but it is also key for the security of Israel. Not having the perspective of a State of Palestine with authorities, with control on their territory and a normal and independent state with a capital and good functioning institutions is, I believe, a major threat to Israeli citizens' security, especially given the situation in the region that is not the most reassuring one. This is why the European Union will continue to work with the parties.
I mentioned the fact that we wait for President Abbas early January here in Brussels and we will have Prime Minister Netanyahu here on Monday already. We are honoured to have the Foreign Minister of Jordan here today and we will continue to work with all our partners in the Quartet and in the region to achieve that goal, which is not non-achievable. Actually we have worked so much in these years and decades - we, the European Union in particular - to build the Palestinian Authority so that it can be ready for running a state. The objective is not out of reach, on the contrary. I know this can sound surreal in these days but sometimes you forget that this is the objective and that all the work we are doing serves to get to it. You might remember - because you are following the European Union’s work in the Middle East very closely - a few months ago I announced that the European Union has launched a review of all our engagement on the ground – which is consistent both politically and economically – exactly to make sure that all our activities on the ground, all our programs, all our projects, all our financing is aimed at reaching the two-State solution, which means the creation of a Palestinian State. This process is now more relevant than ever and we definitely do not give up.
(added after intervention of the Foreign Minister, Ayman Al Safadi):
I did not want to be reticent on the settlements - you know very well the consolidated position of the European Union that is unchanged and coincides exactly with the position that the Minister [of Jordan, of Foreign Affairs, Ayman Al Safadi] just expressed.
Q. What specifically is your message for the Israeli Prime Minister at the informal breakfast on Monday?
The informal meeting we have on Monday with Prime Minister [of Israel, Benjamin] Netanyahu was planned already to discuss mainly about the perspectives of the Middle East Peace Process, as well as the invitation that was sent to [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas exactly for the same purpose.
Because as you know, the European Union and in particular the Foreign Affairs Council has always focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, constantly regardless of the headlines of the day. So, that is and was intended to be a meeting to discuss the perspectives of the Middle East Peace Process, the ways in which the European Union can engage effectively with the parties. You know we have good relations both with Israel and with the Palestinian Authority and this was intended to be the exercise to discuss with [Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin] Netanyahu and with [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas, one month after the other, with all the Ministers, the perspectives of the [Middle East Peace] Process and how we could facilitate more those perspectives.
Obviously this decision on Jerusalem shades a different light on the meeting. I believe he will listen to the very clear position of the European Union. But I would like this meeting not to be just a meeting where we take note of respective positions, but where we also reflect on the perspectives. Because, as I said, I stay convinced, as I have always been, that it is in the interest and especially in the security interest of Israel to find a solution, a sustainable comprehensive solution to this conflict that has lasted for too many decades and that is putting into question the security of Israelis in an unacceptable manner. And I believe that a leader like [Prime Minister of Israel] Benjamin Netanyahu has a responsibility to deliver to the Israeli citizens on the solution of this conflict.
So, we will discuss, we will re-present to him our position, we will listen to his position. But we will also, hopefully, discuss the perspectives of the peace process and the way ahead. Because as my good friend [Ayman] mentioned, the responsibility we have is to keep our eyes and our hope alive, and concretely work step by step to make the objective come true. And I believe Israel has an interest in us working in this direction.
Q. How do you see the latest announcements by the government of the Czech Republic? It is clearly supporting the U.S. decision. It there still a common European line?
Definitely yes. I was surprised that I did not get the question yesterday or so far - so thanks for the question. No, the move, the statement done by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic is definitely not an act of support to the United States' administration decision. I spoke myself yesterday morning with the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic [Lubomír Zaorálek], who is going to be here on Monday at the Foreign Affairs Council. He guaranteed to me that the Czech Republic stays firmly with the common European Union consolidated position on Jerusalem being the capital of the future State of Palestine, meaning two states with Jerusalem as the capital of both along 1967 lines. Which is explicitly referred to in the statement by the Czech Foreign Ministry. And if I do not remember wrong, the statement also refers to the need to have negotiations.
So, it is clearly a position that is different from the one that the United States' administration took. There is no decision from their side to move the embassy: this is what the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic expressed to me yesterday, re-guaranteeing to me that it is not a diversion from the common European Union position. I know that the headline was different probably but if you look at the statement they actually released, you will find all these elements: two States, Jerusalem as capital of both states, 1967 lines negotiations, which is not different from the European Union position at all. So, it is not a diversion from a common position.
And again, this is an issue where you will find the European Union and its Member States united. But not only united: determined to play a role altogether because we know we have a big responsibility. Also to add one thing, this is not an issue just for the Muslim world. I think this is important to mention. As the Minister [of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Jordan, Ayman Al Safadi] said, it is a conflict that call all of us to find a solution. It is not a matter about Arab world versus the West or Muslim world versus the West. It is a matter on which the Europeans have always been working very hard and investing a lot of political capital – and not only political – to find a solution along the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. And in particular the situation of Jerusalem is dear to all of us. So, no dividing lines across East-West, North-South, religions or identities.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I148230