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President Trump's announcement on Jerusalem has a very worrying potential impact. It is a very fragile context, and the announcement has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we are already living in.
The European Union has a clear and united position: we believe that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two States, and with Jerusalem as the capital of both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.
I discussed this with [US] Secretary [of States, Rex] Tillerson during his visit to Brussels on Tuesday. I have made clear our disagreement with this decision, as did all the Foreign Ministers of the 28 Member States of the European Union that met him with me the same day.
The European Union and its Member States 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.
We believe this difficult moment calls for an even stronger engagement for peace. The most urgent priority now is that all relevant actors avoid to further escalate tensions on the ground.
And it is very important that President Trump has acknowledged in his speech that the status quo of the Holy Places must be preserved. The worst thing that could happen now is an escalation of tensions around the Holy Places and in the region. Because what happens in Jerusalem matters to the whole region and the entire world.
I will host tomorrow the Foreign Minister of Jordan, my good friend Mr [Ayman Al] Safadi. Jordan has a very special role when it comes to the Holy Places. His Majesty the King [Abdullah II] of Jordan is the custodian of the Holy Places – and he is a very wise man. He deserves and needs all our support in this difficult time and I believe we should all listen to him very carefully. Because what we truly need in these difficult times is wisdom, and to listen to the wise voices calling for peace and for peaceful reactions.
This was one of my messages to [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas yesterday during our telephone call, when I reiterated also to him the unchanged European Union position on Jerusalem and on the two-state solution.
On our side, the European Union will engage even more with the parties and with our regional and international partners. We will keep working with the Middle East Quartet – possibly in an enlarged format –, with key regional players such as Jordan, Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but also with other important partners such as Norway.
Let me add that the Arab Peace Initiative remains for us a point of reference for any relaunch of negotiations. We will continue to support the relaunch of direct negotiations between the parties. Our goal as the European Union is and remains to achieve a resolution of the conflict based on two States, and a definition of the future status of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine through direct negotiations between the two sides.
Q. Do you think that after Mr. [President of the United States, Donald] Trump's decision, the United States continue to be one of the partners, one of the sponsors of the Middle East Peace Process? Could we think that all 28 Member States agreed on the Communiqué you issued yesterday and today ?
Yes, the answer to the second question is yes. And this is a consolidated European Union position that has always been built on a common position of the European Union Member States, and that was reiterated even, as I said, last Tuesday together with the Foreign Ministers of the 28 Member States to [Secretary of State of the United States] Rex Tillerson during his visit.
On the first question, about the role of the United States in relaunching the negotiations. We have always been convinced and we remain convinced that the role of the United States in relaunching negotiations and carrying their negotiations is crucial and key. And this is part of the worries we have – that this move could diminish the potential role that the United States can play in the region and create more confusion around this.
This is why I affirmed that the European Union, together with regional partners and within the Quartet – which means together with the United States, Russia and the United Nations – is now determined to play an even more convinced and active role in trying to relaunch the peace process and give the horizon of the two States a chance. Because we are very well aware of the fact that, in this moment, strong points of references are needed. We know that the credibility of the European Union when it comes to the Middle East Peace Process is and remains strong with all the interlocutors on the ground, including the two parties. And we are ready to play our part, in full, in coordination with our partners, both internationally and regionally.
Q. On Hamas and his leader that asked for a new intifada after the announcement: have you anything to say on that? On Netanyahu's visit in Brussels on Monday [11 December 2017]: do you envisage any initiative, any strong initiative towards the enthusiastic reaction that [Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin] Netanyahu had yesterday?
On the reaction of the leader of Hamas, I think I have stated very clearly: we expect all demonstrations and all reactions to be peaceful. By the way, this is not only an obvious thing to ask for and to work for, but it is also a way to avoid that any reaction can be counterproductive. The escalation of tensions and violence can only worsen the situation. And I think this is a shared assessment especially with the countries in the region with whom I have been in contact. We have to avoid that the situation goes from bad to worse in this moment.
So, we call for responsibility and wisdom in the reaction that is taking place. And, again, I had strong reassurances by [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas yesterday that he is doing his best to guarantee that all reactions happen in a peaceful and orderly manner.
On Prime Minister [of Israel, Benjamin] Netanyahu's visit to Brussels on Monday; he is planned to have an exchange of views with the Foreign Ministers at the beginning of our Foreign Affairs Council, at an informal breakfast, where we have on the agenda three main points. I guess that one of them will now occupy the whole hour that we will have at our disposal, and that is the Middle East Peace Process - it was already intended to be this way; the other two points being bilateral relations between the European Union and Israel, and regional issues.
But I imagine that now the main point of conversation will be the situation in Jerusalem and the perspectives of the Middle East Peace Process. And, as I said, there is a united position among the Member States and the European Union position is consolidated and well-coordinated with our partners, internationally and in the region. So, I do not expect major surprises, either in one way or another. Then, on his side you should ask the Israelis.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I148180