EU to back Mideast peace push with ‘unprecedented’ support

European Union Council President Donald Tusk, right, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin give a statement after their meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels June 21, 2016. (AFP/JOHN THYS)

European Union Council President Donald Tusk, right, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin give a statement after their meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels June 21, 2016. (AFP/JOHN THYS)

Bloc head Donald Tusk says deal remains a top priority; President Rivlin to address European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday

BRUSSELS — A top European Union official said the bloc stands ready to provide Israel and the Palestinians with massive political, economic and security support as part of any peace agreement between them.

European Council President Donald Tusk said Tuesday that the EU will “back up a peace deal with an unprecedented package of cooperation and support to both Israel and the future state of Palestine.”

Tusk said after talks in Brussels with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin that “a lasting peace in the region remains a top priority” for the EU.

His comments came as the EU’s 28 foreign ministers endorsed France’s plan to hold an international peace conference in Paris to advance the stalled peace process. Israel has repeatedly rejected the French initiative, arguing that it hardens Palestinian negotiating positions and thus distances peace.

In response to the foreign ministers’ backing of the so-called French Initiative, a top Israeli official harshly criticized the union for being unqualified to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as long as it struggled to properly address its own woes.

“When I look at the sequence of the EU implementing labeling [for settlement products] and now the endorsement of an international conference, I feel that those are the ghosts of a colonial European past coming back to life,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel.

“They have no credibility whatsoever if they deal with this conflict without dealing with the major issues that are far more important to Europe and the world, starting with the Syrian civil war, and challenges that Europe itself is facing, such as Brexit, immigration and Islamic terror,” he said.

EU foreign ministers expressed determination on Monday to throw the bloc’s weight behind Middle East peace moves and a possible international conference before the end of the year. They invited EU agencies to present proposals “including on economic incentives, without delay.”

President Reuven Rivlin meets with religious leaders at the Red Star Line museum in Brussels, Belgium on June 21, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin meets with religious leaders at the Red Star Line museum in Brussels, Belgium on June 21, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Rivlin is scheduled to give a speech at a plenary meeting of the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday after first meeting with President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.

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