Trump plan is moment to re-launch Middle East talks for ‘viable solution’, EU says

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/File Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposals to create a Palestinian state for Middle East peace are a chance to re-launch talks towards “a viable solution” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the European Union said in a statement.

The initiative “provides an occasion to re-launch the urgently needed efforts towards a negotiated and viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on behalf of the bloc, adding that the EU would need to study and assess Trump’s proposals.

However, the EU cautioned that Israel and the Palestinians needed to show “a genuine commitment to the two-state solution as the only realistic way to end the conflict.” Trump’s plan agrees to let Israel maintain control of long-contested West Bank settlements.

On Tuesday Trump proposed creating a Palestinian state as part of a Middle East peace plan, drawing Palestinian condemnation for imposing strict conditions and agreeing to let Israel maintain control of long-contested West Bank settlements.

U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they discuss a Middle East peace plan proposal in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Trump announced his plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace at a White House event with embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing at his side. It includes what Trump called a four-year freeze by Israel on new settlement activity.

Although Trump’s stated aim was to end decades of conflict, the plan he advanced favoured Israel, underscored by the absence of Palestinians from Trump’s announcement.

It seemed unlikely to immediately advance Israeli-Palestinian talks that broke down in 2014, but the plan was called “an important starting point for a return to negotiations” by the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia and Egypt also offered encouraging statements.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, however, mocked what Trump has called the “deal of the century,” describing it as the “slap of the century.”

Palestinians have refused to deal with the Trump administration in protest at pro-Israel policies such as moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the eastern part of which is sought by the Palestinians.