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Mahmoud Abbas urges EU to 'swiftly recognise' Palestine

Mahmoud Abbas urges EU to 'swiftly recognise' Palestine as US announces plan to move embassy to Jerusalem by 2019.

Abbas (L) met Federica Mogherini

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has urged European Union (EU) countries to "swiftly recognise" the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.

His comments from Brussels on Monday came on the same day as Mike Pence, the US vice president, told Israel's parliament that the US would move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of 2019.

Palestinians leaders boycotted Pence's visit amid continued anger at the US decision last month to relocate the embassy and recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.  

At a meeting with the EU's foreign ministers, Abbas called the 28-nation bloc a "true partner and friend" and urged it to step up "political" efforts in the Middle East 

EU recognition of Palestine would not disrupt the "the resumption of negotiations" with Israel on a peace settlement, he said. Instead, it "would encourage the Palestinian people to keep hoping for peace and to wait until peace is brought about".

Later on Monday, Abbas said "the Europeans agreed with us about the issue of Jerusalem ... they understand it but they have not made a decision about the recognition yet because it needs another meeting". 

Pence 'snubbed'

US President Donald Trump's Jerusalem announcement on December 6 drew widespread international condemnation and prompted deadly protests in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

The status of the city - home to sites holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews and claimed by both Palestinians and Israelis - is one of the core issues in the perennial conflict.


READ MORE: One year of Trump: The effect on the Middle East


Two-state solution

For her part, Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign affairs chief, reiterated the bloc's commitment to a "two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states".

Speaking alongside Abbas, Mogherini said that was "the only realistic and viable way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties", adding that "we need to speak and act wisely and consistently with a sense of responsibility" to order to achieve a two-state solution, which has been advocated by international powers since the Oslo accords of the 1990s.

Based on the UN resolution 242, the accords called for a two-state solution with occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestine state.

Abbas, who last week said the accord had "ended", stressed on Monday that Palestinians were still committed to a negotiated settlement, and would "continue complying with the treaties that we signed".

Palestinians "are keen on continuing on the way of negotiations because we believe it is the only way forward to reach a negotiated solution and peace between us and Israel", he said.

Call for closer ties

France, meanwhile, said on Monday it wants the EU to work on an agreement on closer relations with the Palestinian territories through a so-called association agreement that would enshrine trade, political and other ties.

The pact is usually signed with recognised states, and the EU already has one with Israel.  

"Concerning relations between the European Union and Palestine, we want to move from an interim agreement to an Association Agreement and immediately engage a process in that direction," Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's foreign minister, said.

Nine EU governments already recognise Palestine.

The EU parliament, in 2014, overwhelming backed the recognition of a Palestinian state "in principle", but said such a move "should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks".


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