At NY meeting, EU foreign policy chief urges PM to renew talks, calls Abbas’s threat to cancel Oslo Accords ‘an alarm’

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (left) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, September 30, 2015. (Courtesy PMO)
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (left) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, September 30, 2015. (Courtesy PMO)


NEW YORK — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini Wednesday evening in New York to discuss the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

At the meeting, Netanyahu “expressed his unhappiness with the European Union’s trend to mark products from [West Bank] settlements,” a Prime Minister’s Office statement said early Thursday.

“The prime minister said and explained that this development symbolizes for many Israelis dark days in Europe and is poorly received in domestic Israeli public opinion,” the statement added.

Although the meeting was not included on Netanyahu’s public schedule, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the meeting shortly before the sit-down started and said that it was planned in advance.

Mogherini announced the meeting after a lengthy meeting of the Middle East Quartet at the United Nations Security Council earlier Wednesday. Following the Quartet session, the EU foreign policy chief pushed for a renewed effort to restart talks between the two parties and suggested a multilateral framework such as the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative would be a possible way forward.

Mogherini said she would discuss this topic with Netanyahu during their conversation Wednesday evening.

According to the Israeli PMO, the two did indeed discuss the Quartet meeting, and Netanyahu briefed Mogherini on Israel’s “growing new security difficulties and challenges.” He “emphasized yet again that he is willing to return to negotiations without precondition, and the fact that Abu Mazen [Abbas] has not responded to that [willingness] is proof that he does not seek a peace settlement.”

Mogherini responded in her public comments Wednesday to the speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas earlier in the day at the UN General Assembly plenum, saying his comments conveyed urgency.

Mogherini said she listened “very carefully” to the speech, and that the Palestinian leader had told her about his intentions two days earlier.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini addressing reporters the UN, September 30, 2015. (Raphael Ahren)
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini addressing reporters the UN, September 30, 2015. (Raphael Ahren)


“I interpreted his words as a scenario that is going to happen if — and there is an if. Now on that ‘if’ we will have to work,” she said, suggesting that his words were a warning rather than an ultimatum, albeit one “telling the urgency of the international and regional community to engage.”

The European foreign policy chief called on the Israeli leadership to take “concrete steps on the ground to implement agreements that are already there” and called on the Palestinian leadership “to engage in national reconciliation and direct negotiations.”

Abbas’s speech, she emphasized, was “an alarm.”

“It’s a serious one, and I think all of the world, from East Asia to Latin America, looks at this because it has a strong symbolic power for everybody,” she said, stressing that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was “not something unrelated” to the fight against Islamic terrorism.

She emphasized that the recent unrest in Jerusalem increased the sense of urgency to work towards a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning that failure to do so could engender increased radicalization. She noted that “a regional security framework can be extremely useful and interesting” for all of the parties involved in an effort to prevent a “dramatic” conflagration.

“If we don’t act, if the leaders on the ground don’t act, this can be a major source of radicalization worldwide, There is an urgency and there is an international effort to encourage support.”

“What has already been agreed can be implemented. Just do it,” she added.

Although in his speech Abbas warned that the Palestinian Authority would cease to honor all prior agreements made with Israel, Mogherini emphasized that the “most viable if not only viable way” to move forward “is to focus on concrete steps on the ground, in particular on encouraging the parties to start implementing already signed agreements.

“This can be a very important step in the right direction to preserve the opportunity for two states and start rebuilding trust and confidence both in Israel and in Palestine, in the other parties and [in] the process itself.”

As reported by The Times of Israel