EU: Jerusalem must be capital of Israel and Palestine

By Jessica Elgot, December 9, 2009
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A street in east Jerusalem. The new EU proposal will not call for the division of the city.

A street in east Jerusalem. The new EU proposal will not call for the division of the city.

The Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has defended the EU’s statement on Jerusalem, which called for it to become the capital of two states.

Mr Bildt’s original proposal, which has firm support from Britain, recommended re-dividing the city, so that east Jerusalem could be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

A watered-down version of the Swedish proposal was approved by the EU, removing the recognition of east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and referring to the Palestinian Authority, instead of “Palestine”.

The approved document declared that the EU was “seriously concerned about the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process” and called for the resumption of negotiations among Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Lebanon.

It also said: “The Council is deeply concerned about the situation in east Jerusalem.

“If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.

“The Council calls for the reopening of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem in accordance with the road map. It also calls on the Israeli government to cease all discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in east Jerusalem.”

A way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states

EU proposal

Mr Bildt said: “I understand Israel hasn't been entirely happy with President Obama either. You can't expect us to agree on everything. We have to have an independent line, and we do have that. I have no problem being pro-Palestinian; I have no problem being pro-Israeli. I am pro-peace."

The 27 member states of the EU attended a meeting of the EU Council for Foreign Affairs to discuss the draft proposal.

Britain, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal reportedly backed the original Swedish proposal, while Italy, the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Poland, France and Germany pushed for changes to the text.

The Board of Deputies has expressed its concern that the EU proposal puts the onus on Israel to make peace, and said it had written to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

A statement from the Board said: “We consider that the EU’s comments on the status of Jerusalem are premature and show a failure to appreciate the intricacies of the negotiations involved in the peace process. This latest development casts doubt on the EU’s credibility and ability to act in an impartial manner. “

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Israel was saddened there was “nothing new” in the EU proposal, but welcomed the decision not to call for the division of Jerusalem.

He said: “The statement by the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union ignores the primary obstacle to achieving a resolution between Israel and the Palestinians: the Palestinian refusal to return to the negotiating table.”

Last updated: 3:39pm, December 10 2009