EU foreign ministers call on Israel to halt settlements, ‘transfers’


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The foreign ministers of the European Union called on Israel to halt settlements and policies including “forced transfer.”

Their statement on the Middle East peace process was released Monday at the end of a monthly European Union Council meeting in Brussels.

It reiterates “strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, such as building the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, demolitions and confiscation — including of EU funded projects — evictions, forced transfers including of Bedouins, illegal outposts, settler violence and restrictions of movement and access.”

More specifically, the statement “calls on Israeli authorities to halt plans for forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure in the Sussiya and Abu Nwar communities.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry took umbrage at the use of the term “transfer,” but said it would raise the issue directly with the European Union, Haaretz reported.

Sussiya is located near Hebron, and is next to an Israeli settlement by the same name. It is in Area C of the West Bank, which is solely under Israeli control. Israel plans by the end of the month to demolish the homes in Sussiya — home to about 340 Palestinians — that were built without permission, and relocate the residents to an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority. EU representatives visited the village last month.

Abu Nwar is an illegally built Bedouin community. Israel plans to move its residents to a planned community in the country’s south.

The 28 EU ministers called for “an increased common international effort” in order to secure “a just and lasting peace.” The statement asks for the creation of an international support group to help move along the peace process, for which the ministers state that there is “no alternative to a negotiated two-state solution.”

The statement also calls for an easing of restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and for a full opening of Gaza border crossings with Israel. It also “urges all Palestinian factions to find common ground, based on non-violence and reconciliation, and to work together to address the needs of the Palestinian population.”

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