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EU Criticizes US Mideast Policy - 2002-02-10

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Spain have decided a French proposal to recognize a Palestinian state is premature. But Europe's top diplomats disagreed with the U.S. and Israeli positions that security should be guaranteed before peace negotiations can be taken up again.

The foreign ministers of the 15 EU member states meeting for two days in the western Spanish city of Caceres have agreed to center their efforts on breaking the current impasse in the Middle East peace process.

They met Friday and Saturday under chairmanship of Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique, since Spain holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of June.

For the time being, the foreign ministers have decided that a French proposal to recognize a sovereign Palestinian state, once democratic elections have been held, is premature.

They also decided an Italian proposal to hold a Mideast peace conference, presented by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is also serving as his country's acting foreign minister, is similarly premature.

At a news conference at the end of the meeting Mr. Pique said the EU's policy on the Middle East will be presented after another meeting February 18.

However, he said, the EU foreign ministers did express support for the initiative currently being negotiated by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and the Palestinian representative, Abu Ala, on the basis of the creation of a Palestinian State.

However, Mr. Pique said it was up to the Palestinians to declare establishment of a state and if the circumstances were appropriate, the EU would recognize it. But he added that point has not yet been reached.

In contrast to the Israeli and U.S. positions that security from terrorism must be guaranteed before peace negotiations can be continued, Mr. Pique said the EU's position is that a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be given priority.