EU to clarify stance on Israeli settlements boycott
A European Union delegation is expected in Jerusalem on Tuesday to clarify the EU's position on Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, an Israeli official said Monday.
EU guidelines published in July banned European funding for and financial dealing with settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, starting from early 2014, according to Agence France Presse.
"Israeli diplomatic efforts and pressure by US Secretary of State John Kerry have convinced the EU of the necessity to clarify how it intends to apply its guidelines," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"The current wording of the guidelines encourages an extremist interpretation which does not allow Israel to enter partnerships with Europe," the official added, AFP reported.
The EU's measures against settlements have sparked anger among many Israeli officials, as they mean that Israel would have to recognise in writing that its settlements are not part of Israel proper in any future agreements signed with the EU, according to AFP.
A spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry said Tuesday's meeting would "prepare the terrain for negotiations between Israel and the EU over the Horizon 2020 partnership which are due to take place on Thursday in Brussels."
On August 14, Israel warned that it might shun Horizon 2020, a six-year EU funding plan for research and innovation that the Israel was rumoured to be participating in, AFP reported.
Under international law, Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal. Israel infuriated Palestinian officials and seriously jeopardised the recently revived peace talks between the two sides when it announced plans to build more than 2,000 settler homes on Palestinian territory shortly before negotiations were resumed.
The last direct round of peace talks between Palestine and Israel were halted due to increased settlement activity, which has grown to an all time high in 2013, according to a recent report.