Former US president Carter calls for EU labelling of goods from illegal Israeli settlements
Middle East peace process discussed at Dublin meeting of the Elders
Former US president Jimmy Carter and former president Mary Robinson at the Department of Foreign Affairs Iveagh House during a visit hosted by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The EU should move to introduce proper labelling of goods produced on illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, former US president Jimmy Carter and fellow members of the Elders, an independent group of global leaders, urged during a visit to Dublin yesterday.
Mr Carter was speaking after he and fellow Elders including Ireland’s former president Mary Robinson and former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso held a meeting with diplomats from some 20 European countries to discuss the EU’s role in helping revive the moribund Middle East peace process.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore was also in attendance, as were representatives from NGOs including Irish aid agency Trócaire which has campaigned for a Europe-wide boycott of goods produced in West Bank settlements.
“With the Middle East peace process making no significant progress, we call on Europe to play a stronger and more independent role in revitalising peace efforts, with a fresh approach,” said Mr Carter. “The EU has repeatedly condemned settlement expansion in the West Bank. It could therefore introduce a clear labelling of products made in Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”
Mary Robinson stressed this was not “an anti-Israel move”. Instead, she said, it was “a concrete step, supported by many of our Israeli friends, to revive the hope of a future state of Palestine and safeguard the two-state solution before it is too late.”
She noted that several European countries are already using labelling that distinguishes products from Israel and goods made in illegal settlements. “People throughout Europe, in their capacity as consumers, have the power to reignite hope in the Middle East,” she said. “As Israel’s largest trading partner, the EU could send a strong signal by introducing clear, EU-wide labelling guidelines.”
The Irish Government supports moves to introduce such a labelling system across the EU, but yesterday Mr Gilmore went further, saying: “The settlements in the West Bank are illegal and therefore the products from those settlements should be treated as illegal in the European Union.”
He added: “The EU should take a leadership role in relation to Middle East peace process, we shouldn’t be waiting to play a supporting role to the United States.”
Mr Carter said he was “very encouraged” by the response of the European diplomats at the meeting. “They all said they were very eager to demonstrate to the world that the 1967 borders were intact, and were almost sacred, and that any intrusion by Israel into Palestine to build settlements was illegal.”
Referring to the strong European vote in favour of granting observer status to Palestine at the UN general assembly last year, Mr Carter said: “[It] was very encouraging to the Palestinians and perhaps very discouraging to the Israelis . . .