EU foreign ministers express dismay over Israeli settlement expansion


The European Union has expressed dismay over Israel’s plans to build settlements in a highly sensitive part of the West Bank, but indicated no punitive measures in response.

After meeting in Brussels, yesterday foreign ministers of the 27 EU states said the Israeli plan would seriously undermine the prospects of successful peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The EU is deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements,” they said. “The EU will closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly.”

The EU statement made no mention of what European governments could do to pressure Israel over the settlements and diplomats said no concrete plans for sanctions were raised during the discussions.

Deep divisions over how to tackle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict mean sanctions or other definite steps by EU states appear unlikely for now.

‘Inch by inch’

The EU ministers also criticised recent statements by a leader from Islamist movement Hamas questioning Israel’s right to exist.

On Saturday, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told a mass rally in Gaza that he would never recognise Israel and pledged to “free the land of Palestine inch by inch”.

“The EU finds inflammatory statements by Hamas leaders that deny Israel’s right to exist unacceptable,” said the ministers.

Israel announced its new settlement plan shortly after the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians’ status in the world body from “observer entity” to “non-member state”.

Palestinians said the settlements could cut them off from Jerusalem, their would-be capital.

On Syria, the union offered to “continue engaging with and to support the Coalition” as it worked towards creating a credible alternative to the current regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“It is the right time to upgrade the SNC today,” German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters in Brussels. – (Reuters)