(JTA) — European Union foreign ministers called for negotiations over the status of Jerusalem as a capital for two states.
In a statement agreed upon Tuesday, the 27 ministers representing the member states of the European Union said, "If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states," according to reports.
The foreign ministers meeting in Brussels also called Israel’s 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements a "step in the right direction."
EU envoys on Monday failed to agree on the wording of a Swedish proposal to divide Jerusalem and make east Jerusalem the Palestinian capital, which led to the foreign ministers’ meeting.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry, responding to the statement, said it "ignores the primary obstacle to achieving a resolution between Israel and the Palestinians: the Palestinian refusal to return to the negotiating table. Given the Israel Government’s efforts to renew the negotiations, Israel regrets that the EU has chosen to adopt a text that, although containing nothing new, does not contribute to the renewal of negotiations.
"We expect the EU to act to promote direct negotiations between the parties, while considering Israel’s security needs and understanding that Israel’s Jewish character must be preserved in any future agreement."
The U.S. State Department responded to the statement, saying: "Our position on Jerusalem is clear. United States policy remains unaffected and unchanged: As has been stated by every previous administration which addressed this issue, the status of Jerusalem, and all other permanent status issues, must be resolved by the parties through negotiations," the statement read.
The European Jewish Congress called the EU foreign ministers’ declaration disappointing and one-sided.
“Although the declaration goes some way to correcting the unprecedented proposals by the Swedes, it is still extremely lopsided towards the Palestinian point of view,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the EJC. “This will only embolden the Palestinians by sending them the message that they don’t need to negotiate because they will receive everything on a silver platter. It also ignores the fact that Israel has repeatedly called for immediate and direct negotiations without preconditions, something repeatedly ignored by the Palestinians.
Israeli officials had pressed EU foreign ministers to reject the Swedish plan, which reportedly said that "Europe calls for an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine, comprising the West Bank and Gaza and with east Jerusalem as its capital. If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the capital of two states."
The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported that the draft resolution also added, "Europe has never recognized Jerusalem’s annexation" and "The European Union will not recognize any changes to ’67 borders unless agreed upon by both states."
The proposal reportedly did not explicitly identify western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.