BRUSSELS (Feb. 2)
European Community officials have welcomed Israel’s proposal to resolve the crisis over the Palestinian activists it deported, saying the move will smooth the way for further talks on expanding trade relations between the 12-member community and Israel.
The Israeli announcement that it was prepared to take back 100 of the Moslem fundamentalists it temporarily expelled in December came only hours before Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was due to discuss the issue with his European counterparts in the E.C.
Peres met Monday with the 12 E.C. foreign ministers for the annual meeting of the E.C.-Israel cooperation council.
“I find this information (about Israel’s decision) a very good step. I find it very helpful,” Niels Helveg Petersen, the Danish foreign minister, said after the E.C.-Israel meeting.
Denmark currently holds the European Community chairmanship.
The European commissioner in charge of external relations, Hans van den Broek, remarked: “Israel has opened the door to a solution, and that is important. It is a helpful step.”
Van den Broek is a former foreign minister of Holland.
In December, the E.C. had condemned the deportations, terming them a “violation of international law.” The crisis had threatened to complicate Israel’s efforts to develop closer economic relations with the community.
During a meeting with journalists on Tuesday, Peres explained that the Israeli decision was “a gesture toward the Clinton administration and the European Community.
“We wanted to avoid any shock with the United Nations,” he added.
Israeli and E.C. representatives are scheduled to meet March 2, probably in Israel, to update the 1975 E.C.-Israel cooperation and trade accord. The new agreement would deepen economic links.
“Israel aspires to an enhanced relationship and a deeper level of substantive cooperation,” Peres told the E.C.-Israel cooperation council meeting.
Israel also wants to reverse its growing trade deficit with Europe. This deficit totaled $4.5 billion in 1991.