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Paris, 3 June 2016
C'est une initiative très importante aujourd'hui ici à Paris pour amener ensemble les acteurs internationaux et régionaux sur la nécessité de relancer l'initiative pour la paix au Proche Orient. Ce n'est pas par hasard que cela se passe en Europe, c'est parce que l'Europe unie a mis parmi les priorités les plus importantes de notre action extérieure la résolution du conflit entre Israël et la Palestine et aussi entre Israël et le reste du monde arabe parce que nous savons très bien que la prolifération des crises et des conflits dans la région et dans le monde n'est pas une raison pour se concentrer sur d'autres priorités et oublier les conflits plus longs, plus durables de la région; mais au contraire s'impose la nécessité de résoudre la question palestinienne avec encore plus de détermination.
I switch to English. This is because we see very well that the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East is adding on to worrying reasons for the vacuum that the prolongation of the conflict in the Middle East can create. The internal developments inside Palestine, inside Israel - on the political side, but also the deterioration of the situation on the ground with the risk of violence that is becoming more and more real every single day, with the policy of the settlement expansion and the demolitions, with violence and incitement for violence - tell us very clearly that the perspective that Oslo opened up is seriously at risk of fading away.
I am from a generation - like so many other Europeans and Arabs and Israelis - that was living in the conviction that Oslo would have opened up a time for peace for all of us. Today we see that this perspective is seriously, seriously, put at risk. This is why we in the European Union are convinced that there is a need for the regional actors and international community to come together and try to facilitate talks, serious talks between the parties on the two-state solution. We still don't see any other options for peace than the two states.
What is important today is also the fact that we are finalising the work within the Quartet, so together with our friends in the United States, in Russia and in the UN, on the report that will be ready in the coming days, not only on the lines, the trends and the situation on the ground that put at risk the perspective of the two states but also includes some substantial recommendations on what the parties can and should do to get to the solution of the conflict; and what the regional and international community can do to support these efforts, to support this process, to create the necessary incentives and guarantees for the parties to engage in this process productively.
The European Union has invested a lot in these renewed efforts from the Quartet to come to a substantial result because we are convinced that we have a special role to play. We are, as Europeans, the first trading partner of Israel, we are, as Europeans, the first financial supporters of the Palestinian authority. We are in good relations with all the key actors of the region, starting from the countries that produced what is still the most interesting basis for the peace negotiations which is the Arab Peace Initiative on which even recently we heard some openings, some interesting openings, from the Israeli side. We are working within the Quartet with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Arab League to create a framework that could, first of all, save the perspective of the two states and, secondly, recreate conditions for a process to be there, because we still refer to the Middle East Peace Process but the reality of facts is that in this moment there is no peace process at all.
So the role of the international community, the duty of the international community, and of the European Union, first and foremost, is to recreate conditions for a peace process to happen and to restart. This is the meaning of the presence of the European Union here today and we will continue to work in this direction within the Quartet, with obviously all the 28 Member States of the European Union which on this are united, some of them present here as well, and we will have a further point on the state of play after this conference and - hopefully after the report of the Quartet - in the next Foreign Affairs Council on 20 June, where the role of the European Union in this process will be highlighted. I will stop here and take a couple of questions – English or French, comme vous voulez.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I122263
Q. L'UE prendra – t-elle en charge un groupe de travail après la Conférence et quelle réaction côté arabe sur cette volonté de relancer l'initiative arabe.
A. Sur la possibilité d'un groupe de travail, c'est un peu tôt pour le dire. Les discussions sont en cours. C'est une question que l'on peut en effet poser et à laquelle on pourra répondre à la fin des travaux aujourd'hui.
Sur le point du contenu, si je peux garder le processus de côté, il est clair que surtout du côté des "incentives" c'est l'Union européenne qui les a. Pour les deux parties. Et c'est bien sûr, soit dans cette perspective, soit dans la perspective que j'ai mentionnée du travail que l'on fait au sein du Quartet, c'est bien sûr l'Union européenne qui a les moyens, les instruments pour créer des conditions des "incentives" pour les deux parties pour s'engager.
La réaction des pays arabes me semble très positive, très importante et dès le début vous pouvez le voir il y a peut-être un an déjà, j'ai indiqué deux priorités pour l'action de l'Union européenne dans le domaine du processus de paix - ou le manque de processus de paix - au Proche Orient: d'abord la revitalisation du Quartet car il faut avoir et construire l'unité de la communauté internationale. Les Etats Unis, l'Union européenne, ensemble, pas un seul des deux mais ensemble, avec aussi la Russie et les Nations Unies et avec - deuxième priorité que j'ai posée - avec les acteurs régionaux et surtout les quatre que j'ai mentionnés: l'Arabie Saoudite comme pays qui a pris l'initiative arabe, la Jordanie pour le rôle qu'elle a comme voisin mais aussi sur les lieux saints à Jérusalem et aussi pour son rôle pour les réfugiés palestiniens, l'Egypte comme pays clé, pas seulement dans la région mais aussi par rapport à Gaza et à l'accès à Gaza, et bien sûr la Ligue Arabe comme acteur fondamental pour le monde Arabe.
Ce sont les deux lignes directrices que nous avons indiquées dès le début de mon mandat: travail dans le Quartet, avec le Quartet et travail avec les acteurs régionaux et arabes en particulier, et ce sont sur ces deux lignes d'action que nous sommes en train de travailler tous ensemble et cette initiative s'inscrit exactement dans cette perspective.
Q. On recent declarations of PM Netanyahu on the preference for a regional initiative.
A. To tell you the truth, to the Europeans it is not so crucial whether the Initiative takes place in Cairo, in Paris, in Brussels, in Riyadh, in New York, in Washington, in Oslo, wherever. The real point on which we all agree, in Europe for sure, in the region as well as far as I can see but I cannot speak for them, is that we need to put on the table something to move. It has been now two years since negotiations stopped. It is two years during which we had major conflicts in Gaza, a deterioration of the security for the Israelis, a deterioration of the socio-economic situation for the Palestinians, a deterioration in terms of the capacity of the Palestinian authority to stand. No one is gaining from this vacuum. So, no matter if it is Paris, Cairo, Brussels, the important thing is that the region, the international community and I hope the parties, come together with solutions to the situation. Because we always say that the status-quo is not sustainable; in reality what we have seen in those two years is that the status-quo is not a status-quo - it is the deterioration of security for the Israelis, and of the life of the Palestinians and of the security of the region.
I would like to stress the point very clearly: this is why I find the initiative extremely interesting - let say the prospective of an Initiative in Egypt and the openings that Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed few days ago on the possibility of having this done-, because the security situation in the region is now creating a different kind of regional framework, also for Israel, that I believe would be a mistake not to take. I was in Riyadh a couple of days ago, I am constantly in contact with our Egyptian friends and also Jordanian friends and with the Arab League, I really believe that that would be the field where renewed process can start. But again, it is not about labels of who owns the process, the important thing is the process: have it started and have it meaningful because again. What I am worried about is the security of Israel and the sustainability of the situation on the ground.
Q. The most senior official in the Israeli foreign ministry and one of the closest persons to Netanyahu, Dore Gold, said yesterday that this initiative will fail, like any decisions imposing on the Middle East have failed. Your view?
A. There is no intention or outcome here to impose anything, and this has never been the intention of anyone. I can answer for the role of the European Union. Our approach has always been, and continues to be, that of creating the conditions for the international community and the region to support a process that has to be owned by the parties and has to come out of negotiations of the parties. This has always been clear to us. This has always been what I've discussed with PM Netanyahu, with all the Israeli officials and also with our Palestinian friends every single time. Our concern is how to re-create, or create rather, a framework, a united framework in the region and in the international community that could allow the parties to restart serious, meaningful talks, meaningful negotiations. I am convinced, we are convinced, this is the only way to achieve the two states. This is the only way to achieve peace. But it's also very clear to us that without a regional and international framework, the two parties will not come spontaneously, all alone, to the table by themselves. So, it is not about imposing, it is not about dictating, it is not even about indicating the steps or the content. It is about creating the space, the possibility, the framework—again, I stress, united—for the parties to reengage seriously, credibly I would say. And, I would stress, to revert the trends. Because in these last two years the trends have been negative for all—Palestinians and Israelis. If you look at the security of Israel today, it's more serious. If we look at the situation on the ground for the Palestinians, be it in Gaza, be it in the West Bank, it's more serious today. And the risk of this deteriorating even further is not in the interest first and foremost of the Israelis, of the Palestinians, but also of the region and also of the Europeans. We have an interest in finding a solution to this. The solution will have to come from the parties, but we have the responsibility and the duty to unite the region and international community to make this possible, and facilitate if we can.