Middle EastPalestine

EU: All israeli settlements ‘illegal, obstacle to peace’


The European Union (EU)’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, has stressed that all Israeli settlements are illegal, condemning them as “an obstacle to peace.”

“We have stressed, repeatedly, that all settlements are illegal and are an obstacle to peace,” High Representative Mogherini said before talks between EU and Arab League foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, which she said would focus on “how to bring the Middle East peace process forward.”

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Mogherini also commented on the recent closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds in protest against Israeli measures, saying “The special status and the character of the city [Jerusalem al-Quds] must be preserved and respected by all.”

“We hope that a solution can be found quickly, Jerusalem is a holy city to the three monotheistic religions,” she added.

For his part, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi, who arrived in Brussels for talks on the so-called Middle East peace process, stressed that the only solution “is to reach a lasting peace that again will ensure that East Jerusalem [al-Quds] is the capital of a Palestinian State.”

Christians stand outside the main entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem, on February 26, 2018 after Christian leaders took the rare step of closing the church — seen as the holiest site in Christianity — the previous day at noon. (Photo by AFP)

Mogherini expressed the EU’s readiness to “offer the redeployment of our mission EUBAM Rafah (the European Union Border Assistance Mission in Rafah),” a Palestinian city and refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip and to “support even more the economic development of Gaza and obviously also increase our humanitarian aid with the specific focus on hospitals in Gaza.”

Safadi said, “We must also make sure that UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) continues to deliver its vital services to millions of refugees across its five areas of operation.”

In a rare move, church leaders in Palestine decided on Sunday to close the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds until further notice to express dissent against new Israeli tax measures and a proposed property law that they say is an attack on Christians.

Recently, the municipality of Jerusalem al-Quds canceled a tax exemption it had granted to the church-owned commercial property in the city.

Furthermore, Israeli lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow the regime to expropriate land in Jerusalem al-Quds sold by churches to private real estate companies in recent years.

Church officials, however, say such a law would make it more difficult for them to find buyers for church-owned land-sales that contribute to operating costs of their religious institutions.

US President Donald Trump on December 6 formally recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and announced plans to move the American embassy to the occupied city.

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