BRUSSELS (AP) – French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that France wants the European Union to start work on an agreement on closer ties with the Palestinian territories, following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The EU already has an agreement governing relations with the Palestinians, but Le Drian signaled that France wants to launch negotiations on an Association Agreement enshrining trade, political and other ties. Such accords are usually only agreed with recognized states. The EU already has one with Israel.
“Concerning relations between the European Union and Palestine, we want to move from an interim agreement to an Association Agreement and immediately engage a process in that direction,” Le Drian said ahead of talks in Brussels with EU foreign ministers and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
EU diplomats say the 28-nation bloc is mulling several ways to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a negotiated settlement on the status of Jerusalem, which both Israel and the Palestinians see as their capital.
Not all member states are likely to back the French call, the diplomats said Friday, briefing reporters on condition that they not be identified.
Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem broke with international consensus on the best way forward in Middle East peace moves, and his freeze on some funding to the Palestinians has angered many in the region and sparked financial uncertainty at the U.N. agency working in the territories.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who was chairing Monday’s meeting in Brussels, said the 28-nation bloc is working “to support an international framework to accompany direct negotiations.”
Mogherini told reporters that “clearly there is a problem with Jerusalem. I would say that this is a very diplomatic euphemism.”
She said “the only pragmatic, realistic solution for Jerusalem has to come through direct negotiations.”
Indeed many in Europe have been left bewildered by Trump’s approach and are still trying to understand how his recent actions fit into a “strategy” that he promised to unveil months ago.
“What would be ideal would be to undertake a peace initiative together with the Americans,” said Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. “President Trump announced an initiative some time ago. We’re waiting for it, and the European Union is ready to work on an initiative that would go in the direction of two states.”