Brussels, 3 October 2022
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Today, we are going to have a meeting of the Association Council with Israel. This happens after a long pause of ten years.
You know that the Association Council is the highest political platform to discuss with our partners. And today, we are reviving this platform with such an important partner, as Israel.
I have to regret that Prime Minister [of Israel, Yair] Lapid could not attend this meeting in person due to pressing state affairs, but he will be joining us by video link. And a Minister of the Israeli Government – Minister [of Intelligence, Elazar] Stern – will be physically present, leading the Israeli delegation.
You know that the Association Councils provide us with an opportunity to engage, to discuss and to deepen our partnership with countries with whom we are associated. And we talk about issues of mutual interest and our bilateral relations.
With Israel, we have a strong bilateral relationship – a very complete bilateral relationship. And we will certainly discuss how to strengthen this bilateral relationship in fields like education, climate, energy, the fight against terrorism. Certainly, we will also discuss the consequences of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. In that moment, democracies have to join forces in order to face the consequences of this war.
But also, we will discuss – frankly and openly –some specific issues which are of our mutual concern. I am talking about the situation in the Palestinian territories and the Middle East Peace Process, which is stalled.
Recently, the United Nations has delivered a report about the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, which is certainly worrisome.
This year is the year in which the number of Palestinian deaths is the biggest since 2007. The [expansion of] settlements continue. We will discuss these issues in the middle of our concern for the security in the wider region.
I have to stress the importance that this discussion will have. And certainly, Prime Minister Lapid, last week in New York at the United Nations General Assembly, clearly expressed his support for the two-state solution – which 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.
The fact that Prime Minister Lapid expressed himself clearly in favour of such a solution, a few days ago, is really important. We have to discuss about it. We have to explore how we can put this into practice.
All in all, today is a good occasion to show our determination to have a positive and fruitful relationship with Israel, pushing for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, pushing for peace between Israel and the Arab world. The two of them – the two peace processes – are necessary.
You cannot say that you have got peace because you have got peace with the Arab states. You also have to have peace with the Palestinians. This is very important for the European Union and I hope that this meeting, after ten years of not discussing face-to-face, will be a good occasion to push for it.
This is the important matter that we are going to discuss, and I am sure that it will be a positive meeting.
You have never been to Israel in your capacity. The government is about to fall. Is there any partner to talk with? In a few weeks, they will not be in government anymore.
Well, I do not know what is going to be the results of the elections but the Member States were very much eager to have this meeting, and the Israeli counterparts also. So, I do not see any inconvenience with that.
And yourself, do you plan to go to Israel at some point? You have never been in your capacity.
I have not been to many places in my capacity.
Is there any common ground between Israel and the EU on the issue of the Iran nuclear deal?
Well, this is one of the issues on which, certainly, we disagree. And Prime Minister Lapid had been very vocal in expressing his disagreement with this process. But I have a mandate from the United Nations and that is what I am trying to do. For the time being, in any case, the negotiations are stalled.
You mentioned there that there have been more Palestinian deaths this year, for example, settlement continues. So why have we convened these talks now? You are just rewarding these violations.
[We convened this meeting exactly] just to talk about it, just to put the issue on the table. I think it is more useful to talk about it than not to have any contact. We have an [EU] Special Representative [for the Middle East Peace Process, Sven Koopmans] who is very active. We want to engage more. Recently, in New York, the Saudis put on the table a new initiative. We thought that it is better to sit and discuss frankly than to avoid any contact. Certainly, we disagree. Certainly, we express concern. But I think it is more positive to sit and to discuss about it.
And these NGOs?
I know, the [Palestinian] NGOs have sent me a letter. I will take it very much into consideration.
Those have been labeled as terrorist organisations by Israel.
That will be on the table.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-230908
Source – EEAS