Israel, EU in secret talks to end diplomatic crisis

Talks aimed at reaching understandings that would restart talks on Palestinian issue

Representatives of Israel and the European Union last week began low-key talks to resolve the current diplomatic crisis between the two players over the EU’s decision to label products manufactured in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Israeli Haaretz daily reported.

Israeli officials told Haaretz that officials are currently working toward reaching agreements that would bring the relationship back on track.

According to the report, Helga Schmid, the EU’s Deputy Secretary General for the External Action Service, arrived in Israel last week.

During the secret visit, Schmid met with Foreign Ministry director general Dore Gold, as well as representatives of the National Security Council in the Prime Minister’s Office and officials from other ministries.

According to an unnamed official, Israel conveyed to Schmid that a condition for renewing dialogue with the EU regarding the Palestinian issue was that the EU take on a more respectful and balanced approach towards Israel.

“We told them that the decisions of the EU’scouncil of foreign ministers and the decision on the labeling of [settlement] products were unilateral and in fact adopted the Palestinian narrative. That’s no way to conduct a respectful dialogue,” the official told Haaretz.

Following the EU’s decision to release guidelines for labeling products from the settlements in supermarket chains throughout the continent, Israel announced that it was suspending some of the dialogue meetings with the EU, mainly regarding Palestinian projects and EU projects in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank.

The EU has insisted it was only clarifying existing rules on the place of origin for goods that will go on sale in the 28-nation bloc, adding that it had nothing to do with a boycott, which it says it does not support.

“For the past two weeks talks have been underway toward resolution with the EU,” an official in Jerusalem said.

The official added: “Israel’s ambassador to the EU institutions in Brussels, David Walzer, held talks on the matter and Helga Schmid visited here. The goal of the talks was to try to reach understandings that would restart talks on the Palestinian issue.”

The official told Haaretz the details were still not final, adding: “The EU is very unhappy that we froze everything having to do with the peace process vis a vis them. They understand that they have to give us something, in a statement, action or a more positive approach.”

This article was post on i24news on the 10th of February 2016

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