Jerusalem (photo, from aljazeera.net) should be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state, agreed European Union foreign ministers after two days of talks in Brussels.
An ealier proposal by the Swedish EU presidency to explicitly support the idea of East Jerusalem as the eventual capital of Palestine has been dropped.
The meeting adopted a text stating that Jerusalem should provide “the future capital of the two states,” as part of a negotiated settlement.
The Swedish proposal had been denounced by the Israeli government as a “dangerous” threat to peace efforts, adding that it would undermine the EU’s role as a Middle East peace mediator.
The text talks of a “contiguous” as well as viable Palestinian state, something which would require the inclusion of part of Jerusalem. It also states that the EU “has never recognised the annexation of East Jerusalem”.
The area was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. It immediately annexed it and claims all of the city as its eternal capital.
The agreed EU statement said that “the European Union will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders”.
The issue had been subject to intense discussion among the European ministers, because some nations wanted to keep the mention of East Jerusalem in the text while others were reluctant to be seen as prejudging the result of any eventual Middle East peace deal.
Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, was one of the ministers most supportive of the original Swedish proposal.
East Jerusalem is “not part of Israel,” he said.
Others EU nations, notably Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, were reluctant to be seen to be imposing a settlement on Israel and the Palestinians.
“To decide here in Brussels what the future status of Jerusalem should be would be very frustrating for the negotiators,” said Franco Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister.
The EU statement has been provisionally welcomed by Salam Fayed, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, according to Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Ramallah.
Acknowledging the EU position, Fayed said it was a “step on the way to having the international community assume its direct responsibility towards ending the Israeli occupation of all the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967”.
However, he also said any political settlement must enable “the Palestinian people to exercise self-determination, as well as the establishment of an independent and sovereign state, with East Jerusalem as its capital”.
Tim Friend, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Brussels, said “many observers are saying that Europe filling a vacuum left by the US, while it’s pre-occupied with other international issues, might [allow Europe to] become much more of a key player in the Middle East peace process.”
Pursuing the annexation
In order to warn of the possible consequences of splitting up the city, Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s mayor, has written an open letter to Catherine Ashton, the new EU foreign policy chief.
Barkat said: “Throughout the history of the world, there is not one important city that was divided that functioned successfully.
“They either reunited or ceased to function properly. The lesson is too clear. Jerusalem must stay united.”
To support the EU presidency’s initiative on East Jerusalem, scores of Palestinians protested in front of the French and Swedish consulates in Jerusalem.
Last week, a confidential report by EU heads of mission in Jerusalem accused Israel of actively pursuing the annexation of the east of the city and undermining hopes for peace with Palestinians.