EU nations back Obama on Middle East

2011-05-20 22:30

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Brussels - European Union nations came out in strong support on Friday of President Barack Obama's call to use the 1967 borders as the basis for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Britain, Germany and France led the praise for Obama's call to base a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, from before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called it "a good, viable path that both sides should consider".

"I also support what the president said regarding unilateral measures, no matter from which side," she added.

Obama repudiated the quest of the Palestinian leadership for unilateral statehood through the United Nations and questioned its alliance with a Hamas faction bent on Israel's destruction.

Merkel also criticised Israel's refusal to freeze the construction of settlements on land occupied since 1967, despite widespread outside pressure.

"Neither settlement construction nor unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state really move the Middle East peace process forward," she said.

Foreign Secretary William Hague of Britain also lauded "President Obama's clear message that the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps".

Unity

The European Union said the principles put forward by Obama had already been backed by the 27-nation EU for some time.

EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said Obama's political objectives "find a clear echo in the work the European Union is doing".

"The Europeans have been adopting positions that have been way ahead of the Americans - way ahead," said a senior EU official.

The official said the EU's Foreign Affairs Council would discuss the situation on Monday at a previously scheduled meeting and issue a statement on the conflict.

He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information.

He said it was too early to say what position the European Union would take if the Palestinian authority declared independence in September, as Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has said is possible.

"There are some differences between member states," the official said. Members of the EU will have to work "to try to be united on the issue," he said.

Obama's comments drew an immediate negative response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is to meet with Obama on Friday.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said it was now important that the EU work together with Washington on the basis of Obama's proposals to bring peace closer.

- AP

Read more on:    william hague  |  angela merkel  |  mahmoud abbas  |  barack obama  |  us  |  middle east peace
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