EU rejects Trump Middle East peace plan, annexation

FILE PHOTO: Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission holds a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The European Union rejected parts of the new U.S. peace plan for the Middle East on Tuesday, saying the plan broke with “internationally agreed parameters”, and any Israeli annexation of Palestinian land would be subject to challenge.

President Donald Trump’s plan, announced last week, was warmly welcomed by Israel and rejected outright by the Palestinians. It would give Israel most of what it has sought during decades of conflict, including nearly all Palestinian land on which it has built settlements.

The EU, which often takes time to respond to international developments because of a need for unanimity among its 27 members, had said last week that it needed to study the Trump plan before it would give its verdict.

It made its conclusions public on Tuesday in a statement from EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

“To build a just and lasting peace, the unresolved final status issues must be decided through direct negotiations between both parties,” Borrell said, noting the issues of the borders of a Palestinian state and the final status of Jerusalem were among those still in dispute.

“The U.S. initiative, as presented on 28 January, departs from these internationally agreed parameters,” Borrell said.

Steps by Israel to annex Palestinian territory, “if implemented, could not pass unchallenged,” Borrell said.

EU policy in the Middle East tends to be cautious, as the bloc includes members with varying degrees of sympathy towards the Palestinians and Israel. Some EU members have already recognised a Palestinian state, although the bloc as a whole says this is a matter to be resolved in peace talks.

The EU condemned Trump’s decision in 2017 to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying Washington had compromised its position as a mediator for peace.