Gaza: the EU tries to secure a place in discussions on the “day after”

Two days before the recognition of the State of Palestine by two of its members, the EU is striving, despite its divisions, to secure a place for the “day after” between Israel and the Palestinians, by receiving several Arab leaders in Brussels.

Unable to speak with a strong voice on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, the EU nevertheless hopes to play a role in defining a lasting solution between Israel and Palestinians.

In this context, several meetings with Arab countries in the region have already taken place. On Sunday, a ministerial meeting between the European Union and more than 35 countries, including many Arab countries. And on Monday, EU foreign ministers will meet their counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, as well as the secretary general of the Arab League.

In addition to the demand for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, “we focused during this meeting on the question of keeping the two-state solution alive”, “the only way to guarantee the rights of the Palestinians but also the security of Israel”, said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhane on Sunday evening in Brussels.

And, the fact that Israel does not realize this is a matter of extreme concern,” he added as the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the idea of a Palestinian state.

The European Union, like much of the international community, favors a two-state solution, with one Israeli and one Palestinian living side by side, to ensure lasting peace in a region torn by a conflict that has lasted for more than 70 years.

And to achieve this, the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell stressed on Sunday, while receiving Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa in Brussels, that only a “strong” Palestinian Authority was able to guarantee peace.

Mr. Borrell called on the Palestinians to undertake the necessary reforms, including in terms of strengthening the rule of law, and called on Israel to put an end to the expansion of its settlements, “contrary to international law”.

“I think a functioning Palestinian Authority is also in Israel’s interest, because to achieve peace we need a strong Palestinian Authority,” he stressed.

“We need to be sure that the Palestinian Authority not only survives, because it is under a lot of pressure, but also that it develops,” said the Saudi minister.

  • “Israel’s interest” –

Europeans have displayed their divisions since the unprecedented attacks launched against Israel by Palestinian Hamas on October 7.

These differences are often difficult to reconcile between countries like Germany, keen not to do anything that could compromise its relationship with Israel, and other countries like Spain, which announced with Ireland that it would recognize the State of Palestine.

Along with Norway, these two EU countries announced last week that they would recognize the State of Palestine as of May 28. This is only “justice” for the Palestinian people, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Sunday.

Other European countries are more reluctant or consider that it is still too early to do so.

But with a view to future peace, the European Union has sought to develop a strategy based on a few essential principles, including that of refusing a return of Hamas to the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Islamist movement has been in power there since 2007, after ousting the Palestinian Authority. The EU therefore considers it essential to strengthen this Authority, which is very discredited even within the Palestinian population.

Mr. Mustafa indicated on Sunday that his priority was support for the “people of Gaza”, which requires an “immediate ceasefire”.

His number two priority is to “work to reform and build better institutions capable of meeting the expectations of the population,” he assured.

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