Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Still unacceptable but tolerated - EU softens Proposal but calls for 'negotiations' over the Status of Jerusalem

(AP, Haaretz, Bloomberg).European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday called for negotiations over the status of Jerusalem, saying a way should be found to make it the capital of two nations, Israel and a future Palestinian state.

"If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states," EU foreign ministers agreed in a statement released on Tuesday, diplomats said.

Under pressure from Germany, France and Italy, EU foreign ministers removed language from a draft statement introduced by Sweden that had met with protests from Israel and charges that the EU was interfering with the peace process.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini suggested the tussle over the language was a distraction to the objective of bringing the parties back to negotiations.

“The European message is that negotiations are necessary, not to decide unilaterally what will be the final status of Jerusalem,” Frattini told reporters.

Israel has warned the European Union against recognizing east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, saying such a move would damage Europe's credibility as a Mideast mediator.

"The Europeans should not dictate the outcome of negotiations in advance," Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said. "This declaration is a dangerous initiative that could hurt efforts to resume negotiations between the parties and will harden the Palestinian position.

He added: "Importantly, this initiative contravenes the principles of the international community and the decisions of the Quartet whereby the parties reach agreement by direct talks."

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat slammed the EU statement on the division of the city as a “real danger for the future of Jerusalem that will never work.”

“Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, must remain undivided with continued religious freedom for all faiths,” Netanyahu said in a policy speech in June.