Josep Borrell
Josep BorrellReuters

The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, on Thursday held a phone conversation with new Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.

During the conversation, Borrell invited Cohen to visit Brussels but also said that Israel should avoid “unilateral actions”.

“In this first constructive exchange, the HR/VP expressed his and EU’s wish to build on the recent momentum in EU-Israel relations, following October’s resumption of the Association Council after a ten-year pause, and a number of recent high-level visits,” said a statement from Borell’s office.

The statement noted that “Israel is one of the EU’s closest partners in the Middle East, and there are a number of global challenges we need to face together, not least Russia’s brutal war of aggression in Ukraine, including Russia’s military cooperation with Iran.”

The top EU official “welcomed Israel’s normalization of relations with a number of Arab countries, reiterated the EU’s willingness to support this development and expressed the hope that this will have a positive impact on the Middle East Peace Process.”

The statement also noted that Borrell “reiterated the EU’s support for the two-state solution, and the need to restore a political horizon to resolve the conflict. In light of current developments, the HR/VP also recalled known EU positions on the need to avoid unilateral actions and expressed strong concerns about the high number of victims.”

Borrell and Cohen “agreed to meet at the earliest possible opportunity to continue their dialogue in person, possibly at the Munich Security Conference in February. The HR/VP also invited Minister Cohen to Brussels,” the statement concluded.

Despite the resumption of the diplomatic-strategic dialogue between the sides, the EU has come under criticism in Israel, particularly after the exposure of a document, drafted by the European Commission in eastern Jerusalem, which calls for helping the Palestinian Authority actively take control of land in Area C, which is supposed to be under full Israeli control under the Oslo Accords.

Previously, in August, the EU said that it plans to continue to provide support for six Palestinian Arab organizations that were designated as terrorist organizations by Israel due to their support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

In 2021, Israel reportedly shunned Sven Koopmans, the EU envoy for the Middle East peace process, during his first visit to Jerusalem. This occurred after Borrell didn't condemn Hamas rocket attacks strongly enough during the round of fighting in May of that year.