E.c. Scores Israel on Settlements, Supports U.S. Mideast Peace Role

The European Community, declaring that it “fully supports” the U.S. peace initiative in the Middle East, has sharply admonished Israel for continuing to build settlements in the administered territories, which it considers illegal and a hindrance to the American efforts.

The statement, the first on the subject since the Persian Gulf War, was issued in advance of a visit to be made this week by Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, who will meet with E.C. ministers.

The declaration was released over the weekend by European Political Cooperation, the foreign policy coordination instrument of the 12 E.C. member states.

The statement expressed “grave concern” over the establishment of two new settlements established to coincide with Secretary of State James Baker’s most recent visits to Israel on a U.S. Middle East peace mission.

Settlers hastily erected the settlement of Revava during the night of April 15-16, just prior to Baker’s second visit to Israel, and Talmon on April 22, to coincide with his third visit to the Jewish state.

The E.C, in its statement, “deplored” the fact that the Israeli government authorized the settlements.

The statement reaffirmed the E.C.’s position that “Jewish settlements in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

It said they were “especially harmful at a time when all parties should show flexibility and realism.”

The E.C. has asked for a role in a Middle East peace conference under joint U.S.-Soviet sponsorship.

Israel has been reluctant to agree because of what it perceives as Europe’s “pro-Arab” attitude. But Levy is nevertheless expected to discuss the matter with his E.C. colleagues.

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