Ireland plans to urge European Union countries to take steps to counter "any unacceptable and illegal" encroachment by Israel on the Jordan Valley, Ireland's deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs said.
Simon Coveney told the Times that the EU's Council of Foreign Affairs discussed last week the bloc's approach towards the Middle East peace process in order to "promote and protect the capacity to negotiate and deliver a two-state solution that is fair to both Israelis and Palestinians".
The Irish official said he had asked the EU's foreign ministers to hold a more detailed session than the consultations scheduled for 17 January in order to try and protect the two-state solution as a "valid option in the face of what many consider the possible annexation of the West Bank, following the expansion of the settlements' area", and the annexation of direct parts of the West Bank, especially the Jordan Valley, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to do.
The EU's newly appointed foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, confirmed that Coveney has expressed Ireland's concern about the future of the Palestinian territories during the recent EU foreign ministers' meeting following the United States' softened position on the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
He pointed out that differences still exist between the bloc's countries on the issue of recognising a Palestinian state and the Middle East settlement, stressing on the importance of encouraging both parties to the conflict to launch serious and credible negotiations in order to implement the two-state solution.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn recently called on EU countries to formally recognise the Palestinian state in response to the US administration's recent decision to consider Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as legitimate.