German FM Heiko Maas arrives in Israel to voice EU 'concern' over sovereignty plan

First high-level visit by European official in Israel since coronavirus pandemic arrives to voice EU's 'concern's over sovereignty plan.

Tags: Heiko Maas
Arutz Sheva Staff, AFP ,

German FM Heiko Maas meets Gabi Ashkenazi in Jerusalem
German FM Heiko Maas meets Gabi Ashkenazi in Jerusalem
REUTERS

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas traveled to Jerusalem on Wednesday where he was set to voice European "concern" over Israel's plans to apply sovereignty over roughly 30% of Judea and Samaria.

Maas, the first high-level European visitor to touch down in Israel since the coronavirus pandemic hit, on arrival touched elbows with his Israeli counterpart, both wearing face masks.

The focal point of talks will be Israel's proposed application of Israeli law over the Jordan Valley and Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, with initial steps slated to begin from July 1, the same day Germany takes the rotating European Union presidency.

The European Union opposes the move although it remains divided on how to react, with Maas's visit seen as an opportunity by Israel to tone down the bloc's response.

The German foreign ministry said on its website that "in the Middle East conflict, Germany and its European Union partners are committed to the resumption of negotiations and a two-state solution."

"In Israel, Foreign Minister Maas will also express European concern about the possible consequences of annexation, as announced by the Israeli government."

Germany's top diplomat held talks with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue and White) before meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue and White).

The Palestinian Authority has sent a counter-proposal for the creation of a "sovereign
Palestinian state, independent and demilitarized" to the Quartet, made up of the UN, US, EU and Russia, Palestinian Authority prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said Tuesday.

"We want Israel to feel international pressure," Shtayyeh said.

Maas is due to travel on to Jordan, from where he will hold a video conference with Shtayyeh and meet with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi.

EU weighs response

While Berlin opposes Israel's sovereignty plan, the EU is yet to outline retaliatory measures and sanctions would need the approval of all 27 member states.

Europe holds significant financial clout in Israel as the country's top business partner, with trade totaling 30 billion euros ($34 billion) last year, according to EU figures.

Some European countries could formally recognize Palestinian statehood but, according to an Israeli official, Germany would not be one of them.

"Germany even with annexation would not recognize a Palestinian state and is not going to support sanctions against Israel," he told AFP.

Other matters on Maas's Jerusalem agenda include Israeli foe Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Shi'ite terror group Hezbollah.



top