Netanyahu urges EU to reverse position on Jerusalem

US recognition of city as Israel’s capital may be step forward in peace process, says PM

Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini after their meeting in Brussels on Monday. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini after their meeting in Brussels on Monday. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

 

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has urged the EU to reverse its criticism of the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as his country’s capital.

European countries should instead back President Donald Trump’s declaration last week as a potential step forward in the Middle East peace process, Mr Netanyahu told reporters at the start of his first official visit to Brussels.

The dispute over Jerusalem’s status has underscored broader tensions between the EU and Israel, which wants European states to ramp up pressure on Iran over its involvement in Syria and other regional conflicts.

Mr Netanyahu said he welcomed the US announcement on Jerusalem because “recognising reality is the substance of peace, the foundation of peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I believe that all, or most, of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace,” he said as he met Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief.

Ms Mogherini said the EU would continue to follow the “international consensus” on Jerusalem. The US decision, which triggered protests across the Middle East, has been widely criticised, including by António Guterres, the UN secretary-general.

Two-state solution

Ms Mogherini reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, in which Jerusalem would become the capital of both territories. She added that the EU planned to hold talks next month with Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority president, as part of an effort to revive the stalled peace process.

Both Mr Netanyahu and Ms Mogherini also highlighted areas of common ground between Israel and the EU, ranging from intelligence co-operation to the development of new technologies.

But Mr Netanyahu’s visit, the first to EU institutions by an Israeli prime minister for more than 20 years, comes amid tensions between the two sides over the peace process and other areas.

Israel wants European countries to do more help curb Tehran’s involvement in proxy conflicts from Syria to Yemen, according to Gilad Erdan, minister of public security and strategic affairs. Israel is particularly concerned by Iran’s alleged efforts to build military installations and transport hubs close to the Syrian border with Israel.

Leading EU member states have made clear their own concerns about Iran’s regional activities and its ballistic missile programme. But the EU is also anxious to avoid upsetting efforts to safeguard a hard-won nuclear deal between international powers and Iran, which has been shaken by Mr Trump’s decision in October to decertify it. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017