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Borrell calls for Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire, but Hungary blocks joint EU position

Published: (Updated: ) in European News by .

Hungary’s move illustrated Europe’s limited ability to exert influence in the region.

EU foreign ministers on Tuesday failed to reach a unified position on the recent Israeli-Palestinian military hostilities, forcing the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, to issue an informal call on his own to end the violence.

While 26 out of 27 EU countries agreed on the text of his statement, Hungary blocked the EU from taking a formal position, as the bloc’s foreign policy decisions and statements have to be made unanimously.

“The priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and implementation of a ceasefire. The purpose is to protect civilians to give full humanitarian access in Gaza,” Borrell told reporters following the videoconference meeting of foreign ministers as he read out a personal statement as the EU’s high representative for foreign policy.

Hungary’s unwillingness to go along with a joint statement underscored the longstanding internal disagreements among EU countries on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Europe’s limited ability to exert influence in the region. U.S. President Joe Biden, who holds far more sway in Israel than European leaders, joined calls for a ceasefire on Tuesday, but there was no sign of a halt in bombardments. Privately, Israeli officials told diplomatic counterparts they expected military operations to continue through the week. 

The recent violence erupted after disputes over attempts by Israeli settlers to forcibly evict Palestinians from a neighborhood in Jerusalem, and heavy-handed Israeli police intervention in the Al-Aqsa mosque. Hamas, the militant group that controls the Palestinian territory of Gaza, seized upon these incidents to launch a barrage of rockets at Israeli cities. Israel responded with heavy bombing of the Gaza strip.

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Borrell called the “high number of civilian casualties” caused by the upsurge of violence “unacceptable,” noting there had been a “high number of children and women” killed.

Since the fighting began, over 200 Palestinians have been killed in hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza, including at least 61 children, according to local health officials. In Israel, at least 10 people have been killed in the thousands of rocket attacks launched from Gaza, according to Israeli authorities.

“We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups on the Israeli territory, and we fully support Israel’s right to defense,” Borrell said.

But he also addressed a few cautionary words to Israel: “We have also considered and stated that this has to be done in a proportionate manner and respecting international humanitarian law.”

The foreign policy chief further urged Israel “not to proceed with evictions in Sheikh Jarrah,” a neighborhood in East Jerusalem where Palestinian families are facing forced evictions to make room for Jewish settlers.

Borrell said that reaching a ceasefire in the region would be a temporary step. He stressed that “a true political solution” must be found to provide security for both sides, allowing “for the potential relaunching of the peace process, which has been in a stalemate for too long.”

The top EU diplomat said he had discussed the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday and also expressed hope that the Middle East Quartet — which consists of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia — could help negotiate a solution to the crisis.

Borrell had called Tuesday’s videoconference in hopes of achieving a unified EU position on the Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, and he stressed that he was “quite satisfied” with the text of his own statement, which received “an important support” of almost all countries.

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Yet he acknowledged some frustration over the failure to bring Hungary on board.

“To be honest, I find it hard to understand” Hungary’s objection, Borrell said, adding that EU foreign policy was “not a caprice but a mandate” for member countries to reach a unified position on important issues around the globe.

Hungary last week also blocked an EU statement accusing Beijing of cracking down on democracy in Hong Kong, which led Germany to sharply criticize Budapest.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/borrell-calls-for-israeli-palestinian-ceasefire-as-hungary-blocks-joint-eu-position/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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