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EU-Israel talks restart after decade amid outcry from rights groups

October 3, 2022 at 2:23 pm

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Joseph Borrell and Israeli Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

Talks between the EU and Israel resume in Brussels on Monday after nearly a decade, despite warnings from human rights groups and European lawmakers over Israel’s abuses against Palestinians, Anadolu News Agency reports.

The first meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council, after nine years, focuses on bilateral issues, the implications of Russia’s war on Ukraine, and the spiralling global energy and food crises.

The EU delegation is led by its Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, while Intelligence Minister, Elazar Stern, heads the Israeli team, after Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, withdrew due to domestic priorities.

Meetings of the EU-Israel Association Council were put on hold in 2013 when Israel pulled out because of the bloc’s protests over its settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.

The resumption comes after Lapid, who took office this July, expressed support for a “peace agreement based on two states and two peoples” in his UN General Assembly speech last month.

Despite the rhetoric, human rights watchdogs and EU lawmakers warn that Israel has not changed its policy towards Palestinians.

New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the EU and its member states to “condemn Israeli authorities’ crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution during the EU-Israel Association Council meeting.”

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In a joint letter, 47 members of the European Parliament expressed “dismay” over the bloc’s decision to resume talks with Israel, urging Borrell “not to reward a government that pursues its policy of annexation and persecution in open defiance of international law and hundreds of UN resolutions.”

The EU has repeatedly called on Israel to end all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and to dismantle already existing settlements.

The bloc also advocates for resuming peace talks geared toward a two-state solution.

The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is seen as occupied territory under international law, making all Jewish settlements there illegal.

Like Turkiye and much of the international community, the EU does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the territories it has occupied since 1967.