BRUSSELS: EU foreign ministers on Monday pressed Israel for an eventual two-state solution with the Palestinians after the war in Gaza, at meetings with the top diplomats from the two sides and key Arab states in Brussels.
The surprise Hamas attack on October 7 on Israel and the subsequent devastating military response from Israel has plunged the Middle East into fresh turmoil and sparked fears of a broader conflict.
But while the bloodshed appears to have driven a long-term solution further out of sight, EU officials insist the time is now to talk about finally resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The 27 EU ministers met first with Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz before they were due to sit down separately with the Palestinian Authority’s top diplomat, Riyad Al Maliki.
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were also holding talks with the European ministers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn condemnation from the United Nations and defied key backer the United States by rejecting calls for a Palestinian state.
Israel’s assault on Gaza has left over 25,000 Palestinians dead, the vast majority women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Netanyahu has vowed “complete victory” over Hamas after the attacks by the Islamist movement’s fighters on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also seized about 250 hostages and Israel says around 132 remain in besieged Gaza.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told Israel that “peace and stability cannot be built only by military means”.
“Which are the other solutions they have in mind? To make all the Palestinians leave? To kill off them?” Borrell said.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is failing to root out Hamas and is “seeding hate” for years to come, he said.
Instead of destroying Hamas, Israel is “seeding the hate for generations” with its retaliatory strikes on Gaza, Josep Borrell told reporters ahead of a meeting. He urged parties to start thinking more concretely about a two-state peace process.
Katz ignored questions from journalists over a future two-state solution and said Israel was focused now on returning the hostages and ensuring its own security.
The EU has struggled for a united stance on the conflict in Gaza as staunch backers of Israel such as Germany have rejected demands for an immediate ceasefire made by the likes of Spain and Ireland.
But there is overall backing in the bloc for a two-state solution.
“The two-state solution is the only solution, and even those who don’t want to know about it have not yet come up with any other alternative,” said German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock.
Borrell circulated what he called a “comprehensive approach” towards finding peace involving the international community holding a conference that would come up with a plan to be put to both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The paper said the international community should then eventually “set out the consequences they envisage to attach to engagement or non-engagement with the peace plan” by either side.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Israel’s “continuation of measures to undermine the two-state solution is dooming the future of the region to more conflicts and more war”.
“The whole world is saying the only way out of this misery is the two-state solution. So the party who’s standing against the rights of all peoples of the region, including Israelis, to have peace cannot just be left unaccountable,” he said.