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      EU Affirms Readiness to Recognize a Palestinian State

      EU says that it is ready to recognize a Palestinian state but stops short on recognizing it outright.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 12/15/2010, 1:54 AM / Last Update: 12/15/2010, 1:47 AM

      On Monday, the European Union reaffirmed its readiness to recognize a Palestinian state at an “appropriate” time. However, it stopped short of an outright recognition.

      There has been pressure on the European Union to recognize a Palestinian state, particularly after the latest talks between the U.S. and Israel on a new construction freeze of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria failed.

      Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday urged EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton “to take a step towards recognition of the state of Palestine based on the 1967 borders,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP, referring to the lands occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967.

      Despite the pressure and after long negotiations, the EU’s foreign ministers adopted a relatively mild statement with no ultimatums. The statement expresses “regret” at Israel's rejection of a new freeze, describing the communities in Judea and Samaria as “illegal” and as an “obstacle to peace.” The statement also underlines the EU’s support for “a negotiated solution” between the two sides “within the 12 months set by the Quartet” of international mediators.

      Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said that the recognition of a Palestinian state had “always been on the table. But at this stage it's too early.” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle added that it was vital to avoid action that could compromise peace talks between Israel and the PA including what he called “unilateral moves.”

      Regarding the so-called “pre-1967 borders” (the lands occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967), the EU will not recognize any border changes, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than ones agreed to by the parties.

      Finally, the statement demands that a way be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem “as the future capital of two states” and calls for a just solution to the refugee problem (the Arab demand that Israel allow millions of Arabs descended from those who fled during the War of Independence to “return” to the cities in which their grandparents and great-grandparents once lived).

      The EU’s statement comes on the heels of last week’s announcements by some South American countries that they recognize a Palestinian state.

      Brazil was first, with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva writing a letter to Abbas in which he wrote that  Brazil recognizes “Palestine” and hopes that the recognition will help lead to two states, Israel and Palestine, “that will co-exist peacefully and in security.”

      Argentina followed with an announcement that it recognizes a Palestinian state, calling Palestine “a free and independent state within its 1967 borders,” an announcement which Argentina said reflects its frustration at the slow progress of peace talks with Israel. It was also reported that Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador might also make similar announcements.

      Meanwhile on Monday, the German government denied reports that Germany proposed a resolution for the EU to recognize an independent Palestinian state within a year if no peace agreement is reached by then.

      German Foreign Ministry Spokesman Stefan Bredohl said the report which appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv “is entirely unfounded,” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, rejected the report that German State Secretary Eckhart von Klaeden delivered a message from the chancellor to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the alleged initiative. Seibert called the report “simply false.”