European Interest

EU support for Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem

Flickr/European External Action Service/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Mahmoud ABBAS, Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini in a meeting on February, 2015.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority met with European Union foreign ministers in Brussels on January 22. The ministers supported Abbas’ ambition to have East Jerusalem as capital of a Palestinian state.

“I want to reassure President Abbas of the firm commitment of the European Union to the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states,” said European Commission Vice-President Federica Mogherini, who is also High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Before Abbas’ arrival, she was more outspoken, saying: “Clearly there is a problem with Jerusalem. That is a very diplomatic euphemism,” in reference to Trump’s position.

This is the European Union’s latest rejection of US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Abbas urged EU governments to recognise a state of Palestine immediately, arguing that this would not disrupt negotiations with Israel on a peace settlement for the region.

While Abbas made no reference to Trump’s move on Jerusalem or US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the city on January 22, his presence at the EU headquarters in Brussels was seized on by European officials as a chance to restate opposition to Trump’s December 6 decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

According to Reuters, Abbas struck a more diplomatic tone than in his recent public remarks, including earlier this month when he said he would only accept a broad, internationally-backed panel to broker any peace talks with Israel.

“We are keen on continuing the way of negotiations,” Abbas said. “We are determined to reunite our people and our land.”

While nine EU governments including Sweden and Poland already recognise Palestine, the 28-nation bloc says such recognition must come as part of a peace settlement.

According to Reuters, this reflects the European Union’s dual role as the Palestinians’ biggest aid donor and Israel’s biggest trade partner. The EU also wants the Palestinians to remain open to a US-led peace plan, expected to be presented soon by Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

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