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EU softens line on future Palestinian capital

LONDON: European Union foreign ministers have agreed to a watered-down statement on the Middle East that stops short of an explicit call for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state but still criticises Israel.Israel had condemned a leaked draft statement by Sweden, the holder of the rotating EU presidency, that mentioned East Jerusalem as a future capital for the Palestinians.On Tuesday, EU foreign ministers reverted to more familiar wording that said: ”If there is to be genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as a future capital of two states.”Sweden had wanted the EU to provide sufficient support for the Palestinians to encourage them to return to long-stalled negotiations with Israel, but this latest statement from Brussels seemed unlikely to achieve that.The Palestinians say they will not resume talks unless Israel halts all settlement construction in line with the 2003 US ”road map”. Israel has agreed to only a temporary, partial freeze.EU diplomats said they regretted the leak had exposed internal debates but the point was to set out parameters for a final agreement at a time of impasse in the peace process.”There will always be something for everyone to dislike,” one EU official said.Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it – a move the international community never recognised.Underlining that lack of recognition, the EU said it would accept no change to the pre-war borders without Israeli-Palestinian agreement.That position is a challenge to Israel. Nearly 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank, even though settlements on occupied land are banned under international law.Israel expects to hold on to its settlements in East Jerusalem and the larger ones in the West Bank in any future peace deal.The EU ministers took ”positive note” of Israel’s temporary, partial settlement freeze, but they criticised all settlements, the Israeli separation barrier and the demolition of Palestinian homes.Guardian News & Media
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