The European Union and Israel on Monday held high-level talks for the first time in a decade, with the Europeans pressing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid about how to put a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians into place.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell welcomed the recent support from Lapid — who took part in Monday’s talks by videoconference — for an end to the conflict based on an Israeli and Palestinian state living peacefully side by side.
“This is also what we want to push for. We want the resumption of a political process that can lead to a two-state solution and a comprehensive regional peace,” Borrell said. “We have to explore how we can put this into practice.”
“It’s better to sit and discuss frankly, than to avoid any contact. Certainly we disagree. Certainly we express concern, but I think it’s more positive to sit and discuss,” Borrell told reporters in Brussels.
In his opening remarks at the meeting — led in Brussels by Israeli Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern — Borrell underlined the EU’s concern “about the continued tensions and violence on the ground and the continuation of unilateral measures, such as settlement expansion, and the security issues.”
It’s the first time the two sides have held an “Association Council” since July 2012. Israel and the EU signed an Association Agreement governing their ties in 1995, and the pact entered force in 2000. Talks were meant to be held annually, but Israel canceled a planned 2013 meeting over the EU’s policy toward Israeli settlements. Some EU countries have also been reluctant to meet since then.