Europe on Monday reaffirmed its readiness to recognise a Palestinian state at an "appropriate" time, despite mounting pressure to impose sanctions on Israel.
The statement comes after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Monday urged the European Union to move towards recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, in a call to the bloc’s top diplomat.
Pressure has built on the European Union to flex muscle after Israel refused to extend a moratorium on illegal settlements, with 26 former European leaders last week demanding sanctions.
Argentina and Uruguay joining Brazil in recognising an independent Palestinian state.
Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels adopted a statement that falls short of ultimatums and breaks little new ground.
EU foreign ministers "noted with regret" Israel's failure to extend a moratorium on construction of illegal settlements.
"Our views on settlements, including in East Jerusalem, are clear: they are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace," the ministers said in a statement after a meeting in Brussels.
It underlines EU support for "a negotiated solution" between the two sides "within the 12 months set by the Quartet" of international mediators.
It goes on to say that the EU reiterates its readiness, "when appropriate", to recognise a Palestinian state.
"EU sanctions on Israel"
A large group of former EU leaders and commissioners, including Catherine Ashton's predecessor Javier Solana, has urged the Union to impose sanctions against Israel on illegal settlements.
The group in a letter to EU capitals and the leaders of the EU institutions on 6 December, says that Israel like any other state should be made to feel the consequences and pay a price tag for breaking international law by building thousands of new Jewish homes on Palestinian land, according to seen by EUobserver report.
It asks EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels on 13 December to state as doctrine that the EU: "Will not recognize any changes to the June 1967 boundaries, and clarify that a Palestinian state should be in sovereign control over territory equivalent to 100 percent of the territory occupied in 1967, including its capital in East Jerusalem."
It also asks ministers to set an ultimatum of April 2011 for Israel to fall into line or see the Union seek an end to the existing US-led peace talks in favour of a UN solution.
On top of this, the bloc should: officially link its informal freeze on an upgrade in EU-Irsael diplomatic relations to a settlement freeze; block imports of products made in settlements but labelled as made in Israel; make Israel pay the lion's share of aid to Palestine; send a high-level delegation to East Jerusalem to back Palestinian claims; and reclassify EU support for Palestine as "nation building" instead of "institution building."
The letter warns in a note of urgency that "time is fast running out" because "Israel's continuation of settlement activity ... poses an existential threat to the prospects of establishing a sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestinian state."
Criticising existing EU policy, it adds that tough action is "a matter of fundamental credibility" for the bloc, which risks deterioration in its ties with Arab trade partners. "The EU needs to act more pro-actively in its relations with the US, Israel and others to promote the fulfillment of this objective," it says.
The letter is signed by 26 notables including 10 former leaders of European countries, 10 former ministers and several former EU commissioners. The roll-call includes former German chancellor Helmut Schmid, former German president Richard von Weizsacker, one-time Spanish leader Felipe Gonzales, ex-EU commission president and Italian PM Romano Prodi and the UK's former EU commissioner Chris Patten.
Related news reports:Last Mod: 14 Aralık 2010, 12:02