EU Foreign Ministers Bid to heal Divisions on Unilateral Palestinian State

Washington, Sept. 2 – European Union foreign ministers are meeting in Poland on Friday (Sept. 2) to attempt to bridge wide disagreements on a Palestinian bid to unilaterally declare a state – a move that would enable the Palestinians to bypass critical negotiations and avoid recognizing Israel as the Jewish national homeland.

Palestinian Authority leaders have spent the past several months traveling the globe to gain support for declaring a state. To date, several countries that form the 27-members bloc, including Germany, Italy, the Netherland and Poland have come out against the Palestinian plan. Among the EU member-states supporting the Palestinian proposal are Belgium, Ireland and Spain.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said earlier this week he wants the European Union to become more involved in the Middle East peace process and present a united front.

“I hope that the 27 countries of the European Union will speak with one voice and that together we will assume our responsibilities,” Sarkozy said Wednesday in an address to French ambassadors in Paris Wednesday.

On Friday, just before the EU meeting, France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said: "France hopes that they use the occasion for reopening the path to dialogue rather than risking a futile and dangerous diplomatic confrontation.”

Neither France nor Britain has committed to a position; Austria reportedly has “refrained from stating a position” and is instead waiting to hear what other EU member-states decide, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said.

Said Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Schallenberg, “We would prefer a negotiated two-state solution, because a negotiated solution is the best guarantee for a stable and peaceful environment” but added, “We will decide as late as possible.”

The Palestinians intend to submit their statehood bid to the United Nations during the General Assembly this month; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to argue his case before the UN body Sept. 23.

In the meantime, the United States has made its position clear: that a peaceful, two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can only be reached through direct talks. Top U.S. officials have said they will exercise their veto power if the Palestinians’ unilateral statehood bid comes before the U.N. Security Council.

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