News / Middle East

    Kerry Urges EU to Postpone Funding Ban in Israeli-Occupied Territories

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton before a meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, Sept. 7, 2013. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton before a meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, Sept. 7, 2013.
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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton before a meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, Sept. 7, 2013.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton before a meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, Sept. 7, 2013.
    Reuters
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the European Union on Saturday to postpone a planned ban on EU financial assistance to Israeli organizations in the occupied Palestinian territories, a U.S. official said.

    Kerry made the request at a meeting with EU foreign ministers at which he also called on them to support Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which resumed on July 29 after a nearly three-year hiatus.

    The EU imposed restrictions in July, citing its frustration over the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in territory captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East War.

    A senior U.S. State Department official told reporters in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius that Kerry called on the Europeans to consider postponing the implementation of EU guidelines on aid.

    “There was strong support for his efforts and an openness to considering his requests,” he said.

    The guidelines render Israeli entities operating in the occupied territories ineligible for EU grants, prizes or loans, beginning next year.

    They angered Israel's rightist government, which accused the Europeans of harming Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and responded by announcing curbs on EU aid projects for thousands of West Bank Palestinians.

    Palestinians praised the guidelines as a concrete step against settlement construction, which they fear will deny them a viable state.

    Asked her response to Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters the guidelines were simply “putting down on paper what is currently the EU position.”

    Talks

    Ashton announced, however, that the EU would send a team, headed by a senior EU diplomat, to Israel on Monday to make sure the implementation of the new guidelines was done sensitively.

    “We of course want to continue having a strong relationship with Israel,” she said.

    The EU team would talk to the Israelis about implementation of the new guidelines but not about renegotiating them, an EU source said.

    A senior U.S. State Department official, briefing reporters before the Vilnius talks, said Kerry would give a clear message to EU ministers on the funding issue.

    He would tell them that “it's important for those parties who have an interest in a successful outcome [to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations] that they be supportive of this effort and that they find a way to embrace the negotiators and encourage them to move forward, rather than, as it were metaphorically, bang them over the head,” the official said.

    Jewish settler leaders say the aid they receive from Europe is minimal. But many in Israel worry about possible knock-on effects the EU steps may have on individuals or companies based in Israel that might be involved in business in the settlements, deemed illegal by the international community.

    The EU and Israel began talks last month on Horizon 2020, a prestigious 80-billion-euro ($107-billion) European research funding program. The dispute over the guidelines could jeopardize an agreement on Israel's participation in it.

    Israeli-Palestinian peace has been Kerry's main foreign policy initiative since becoming secretary of state on Feb. 1.

    He is scheduled to brief some Arab League ministers on his peace efforts in Paris on Sunday and then to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the same day in London.

    He is also expected to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon.

    The core issues that need to be settled in the more than six-decade-old Israeli-Palestinian dispute include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.

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    by: Hakuna Matata from: Cupertinp, CA
    September 13, 2013 2:14 AM
    Once again the US is supporting the immoral, illegal, and racist policies of Israel in the occupied West Bank where Israel has set-up a system where it denies building and water permits to the Palestinians, builds roads exclusive use of settlers, has check-points where soldiers look on while pregnant women die giving birth.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 09, 2013 12:01 PM
    It is most appalling to continue to refer to the Jewish land, formerly occupied by the Arabs and retrieved during the '67 wars, as still occupied land. Who is occupying what now? Despite fractions of history discovered, should somebody continue to refer to the territory (let's agree with you that it's) under dispute, as occupied land? Land under dispute should serve a better reference instead of outrightly making it look like it belongs to the Palestinians and Israel is confiscating it. In as much as the Palestinians continue to ruminate in pampering by the international community and refuse to do the right thing to end the strife, Israel should continue to build on the land until all of it is utilized.

    After all Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc - all which stand for the Resistance, have as yet refused to recognize Israel's right to exist. So what is the peace that is going to be negotiated if it is only going to mean enfranchisement of the enemy to not only possess lethal weapons, but to shoot them at you without the least provocation? It's suicidal by any reckoning, and Israel should do everything at its disposal to stall the so-called peace process until there is sanity in the whole exercise - when the arch enemies at least agree with Israel's right to exist. Then the peace negotiations and procedures can start. Now it's only asking Israel to commit a suicide.
    In Response

    by: Hakuna Matata from: Cupertino
    September 13, 2013 2:39 AM
    Godwin,

    The Normans currently live in England. Should they go back and displace the people of Normandy, evict them from their homes, set up roads for their exclusive use, deny them permits for building houses and roads?

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