BRUSSELS (Oct. 14)
As U.S. Secretary of State James Baker departed for his eighth trip to the Middle East, the European Community released a statement expressing its full support for America’s efforts to set up a Middle East peace conference before the end of this month.
The E.C. also welcomed the “positive attitude” taken recently by the Palestine National Council, which, at its recent meeting in Algiers, agreed to Palestinian participation in the conference.
The statement, which was issued by Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek, current chairman of the E.C. Council of Ministers, also urged Israel to desist from building settlements in the West Bank.
The E.C. called for confidence-building measures by both sides but seemed to put the burden mainly on Israel.
The statement said the 12 E.C. member states “underline the importance they attach to a suspension of Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.”
It welcomed “the willingness of the Arab states to freeze the trade boycott of Israel in return for this.”
The E.C. expressed hope that the “emerging consensus will open the way to an early resolution of the problem of an authentic Palestinian representation.
“The Community and its member states do not believe that any formula on this issue can be held to prejudice negotiations on substantive issues such as the status of Jerusalem,” the E.C. said.
Israel has specifically ruled out negotiations on Jerusalem, which it considers its sovereign territory. For that reason, it refuses to meet with a Palestinian delegation that includes any resident of East Jerusalem.
The E.C. statement indicated a fundamentally opposite view that regards East Jerusalem as “occupied territory.”
REPEAL OF ZIONISM RESOLUTION URGED
In fact, the only substantive part of the E.C. statement likely to elicit Israel’s agreement was its call for repeal of the 1975 U.N. General Assembly resolution denigrating Zionism as a form of racism.
The E.C. reaffirmed its strong disapproval of that resolution, “which should be consigned to oblivion,” the statement said.
It also reaffirmed its determination “to give all possible support to efforts to convene a Middle East peace conference” and “to play an active role as full participant in such a conference alongside the co-sponsors,” the United States and Soviet Union.
In addition, the E.C. may consider a wide-ranging program for economic development on a regional scale in the Middle East.
Such a proposal was made by the Italian foreign minister, Gianni de Michelis, at an Oct. 9 meeting in Barcelona, Spain.
De Michelis said the E.C. ministers are ready and willing to create new mechanisms for economic cooperation with Arabs and Israelis and suggested that the countries in the region may be given the status of associate members of the European Community, as a practical measure.