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The voice of the European Union has been heard loud and clear in all corners of the word after President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem. We believe that Jerusalem shall be the capital of two states: West Jerusalem for the state of Israel and East Jerusalem for the state of Palestine. We believe that the only way to achieve this goal is through direct negotiations between the parties based on the 1967 borders and that there is no alternative solution that would be both viable and sustainable, meet the aspirations of the two sides and address the legitimate concerns.
This is the position of the entire European Union and this is what all 28 Foreign Ministers said yesterday morning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one by one, in full unity. Our position is built on the most solid foundations. It is based on the Oslo Accords between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and on the international consensus embodied in UN Security Council Resolution 478. Our partners know very well where we stand and we have made it very clear – always, and during these last very difficult days.
As a partner and as a friend, we have always been clear in our contacts with the United States, before and after the decision was taken. Exactly one week ago, I met with Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, together with the 28 Foreign Ministers of the European Union Member States, and we invited the United States to carefully consider the repercussions that such a decision may have had on public opinion in the region and all around the world, because what happens in Jerusalem has global repercussions for good and for bad. This move risks strengthening radical forces in the region and weakening forces of wisdom and moderation, being completely counterproductive. We discussed these arguments with our American interlocutors, including a couple of days ago with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s Middle East adviser, and our contacts with our American friends will continue in the coming days and weeks.
The Israelis and the Palestinians also know where we stand and this makes us a credible, predictable and indispensable partner for them to restart a meaningful peace process. It therefore comes as no surprise that our meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Netanyahu was very open and frank. We did not hide our disagreements because this is what good friends and partners, as we are, should always do. We have made it clear that we will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem as Europeans, including on the location of our embassies, until the final status of Jerusalem is resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.
At the same time, we understand Israel’s security concerns and we want to see them properly addressed. I took the opportunity of the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu – the first one for more than 20 years – to condemn in the strongest possible terms all attacks against Jews everywhere in the world, including in Europe, and all attacks against Israeli citizens. At the same time, we believe that Israel’s security interests are best served by having a stable, viable, independent Palestinian state living in peace and security at the side of the Israeli state. This is what many great Israeli leaders have rightly believed throughout the years and this is what led Yitzhak Rabin to sign the Oslo Accords.
I presented the very same position, very openly and very clearly, to our Palestinian and Arab friends. Last week, I spoke with President Abbas and guaranteed that the European Union will continue to work for Jerusalem to be the capital of both the state of Israel and the state of Palestine. We agreed with President Abbas that he will join us in Brussels on the occasion of the January Foreign Affairs Council, and we will have a similar discussion with him on the perspectives of the relaunch of the Middle East peace process that we had yesterday with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I also asked President Abbas to do all he can to make sure that all demonstrations remain peaceful.
On Friday, in Brussels, I met with my Jordanian counterpart, and also my friend, Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi; and with him contacts have continued on a daily basis, actually several times a day. We are in contact with what we consider to be a key player at this moment because Jordan plays a very special role when it comes to Jerusalem. His Majesty the King of Jordan is the custodian of the Holy Sites, as agreed in the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. He is also a very wise man and I believe all of us remember the very wise words he addressed to this very Chamber a couple of years ago. I thanked the Minister for the restraint and the wisdom shown by Jordan in this difficult situation, including the work done by Jordan and others during the League of Arab States Ministerial Meeting in Cairo last Saturday, where the Arab Peace Initiative was recalled as a useful framework to re advance the possibility to start negotiations. The steps taken by the Arab states in these days and in the coming days, in the near future, will be particularly important: to show leadership, wisdom, restraint and moderation, keeping the clearly defined position that we are backing in full consistency with our consolidated position and role.
I can say that I believe that, in these hours and days, the European Union is an important point of reference for the Arab world. Regardless of all the narratives and the rhetoric about the Arab world and the West, Europe constitutes an important point of reference to uphold the principle and the consensus developed on Jerusalem. For us Europeans this situation is a call to mobilise with even greater conviction for peace between Israel and Palestine. We are determined to play an even more active role in trying to provide, first, a political horizon for the two-state solution – there is no realistic alternative to two states – and, second, to work to create the appropriate international and regional framework to relaunch direct negotiations. So we will keep working. We are continuing to work at this time with both parties and with the Middle East Quartet, which means together with the United States, Russia and the United Nations. This format, as I have said in recent days, could possibly be enlarged to include key regional players such as Jordan and Egypt, but we could also involve other important partners, such as Norway, who could play an important part in supporting this process. The United States should – and could – continue to play an important role in that framework.
It is in the darkest hours, such as these, that the work of peacemakers becomes more difficult – yes – but more important. We must first of all engage to prevent any escalation around Jerusalem, which could have terrible consequences for the region and beyond, and we must engage to preserve the objective of two states and recreate the conditions for the peace process to restart – the key to restart the engine.
Let me conclude by saying that Jerusalem is not just a city. Jerusalem is the cradle of three faiths. Our ancestors believed that it was the centre of the entire world and the whole world still looks at Jerusalem. It can be a reason for division and even war or it can be the most powerful symbol of peace and reconciliation. The region and the world count on Europe – count on the European Union – to stay engaged with a clear, united message and clear, determined work and this is exactly what we are doing in the clearest and most united manner.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I148155