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Danish FM threatens Israel with sanctions

Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard yesterday called for "taking new steps, including changes to our trade relations with Israel" in order to force it to make concessions in its talks with the Palestinians.

Danish newspaper Jyllands- Posten reported Lidegaard calling for "imposing Danish and European sanctions on Israel", noting the commercial sanctions are "vital".

"If nothing happens in the peace talks this time, and if we don't see a new pattern of response from Israel's side, then we will need to discuss the possibility of taking new steps, including changes to our trade relations with Israel," he said.

"I hope that it doesn't come to that, but I think that the EU's policies are moving in that direction," he said.

Lidegaard's remarks coincided with his planned visit to Egypt this week. Al-ArabiAl-Jadeed newspaper reported sources saying such clear and open remarks would be discussed by EU foreign ministers.

Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed said that through his visit to Egypt, Lidegaard is planning to have a close look at the ongoing talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

In the same context, the newspaper said that Lidegaard is travelling to Egypt with proposals, including placing international observers in Gaza and lifting the siege to guarantee free movement for goods and people into and out of the Strip.

Lidegaard's remarks are considered unprecedented in his country. Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt refused to criticise Israel during its war on the Gaza Strip.

Spokesman of the Red-Green Party and Member of the Danish Parliament Nikolaj Villumsen supported Lidegaard's remarks calling them "correct".

Villumsen said that this is a correct measure and his party would support it. "Israel has to understand the consequences of breaching international law and the rights of the Palestinians," he said. "We call for the foreign minister to translate his remarks to actions."

Other Danish politicians announced their support for the foreign minister's remarks, while others opposed and criticised them.

Head of the Danish Conservative People's Party Lars Barfoed strongly criticised Lidegaard's remarks and said he was surprised the prime minister had remained silent.

Barfoed noted that imposing sanctions on "the only democracy in the region is wrong".

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