Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo are keen to promote de-escalation in the Middle East, the two said ahead of their visits on Thursday for talks with their Israeli counterpart and the president of the Palestinian Authority.
Representing the ‘double EU presidency’ – now held by Spain and for the first half of next year by Belgium – the two prime ministers will meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
They will “hold talks on the humanitarian and political situation”, seeking “to actively contribute to de-escalation and a potential political solution from the EU”, De Croo said on X.
Both Sánchez and De Croo agree on calling for a humanitarian ceasefire.
Speaking of the state of Palestine, Sánchez also stressed that “we will work in Europe and Spain for the recognition of the State of Palestine” during his investiture debate on 15 November.
Junior left-wing coalition partner Sumar included recognising the Palestinian state as a prerequisite to any deal to form a government in October. Only nine of the 27 EU member states recognise the State of Palestine – including Spain and Belgium.
“What is happening today in Gaza is no longer proportionate,” De Croo said on 7 November during an event in Brussels, The Brussels Times reported.
While condemning the 7 October attacks by Hamas, he called for political dialogue and a cessation of hostilities, as well as the immediate release of hostages held by Hamas. He also reiterated that Belgium does not take sides but instead advocates to end the violence.
But Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Petra de Sutter took it a step further, calling for “sanctions against Israel” on 9 November.
“The shower of bombs is inhuman. While war crimes are being committed in Gaza, Israel is ignoring the international call for a ceasefire,” De Sutter said on X.
The divisions within the Belgian government are indicative of broader disagreements at the EU level, with countries struggling to find a common position.
After lengthy negotiations, EU states agreed on 26 October to call for “humanitarian corridors and humanitarian pauses” and hold a peace conference.
Several EU countries made sure to emphasise the humanitarian aspect of the corridors due to fears they could be misused to provide military supplies to Hamas by third parties, according to EU diplomats.
On the EU institution side, the bloc’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell visited Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as several Arab countries, on 16-20 November as part of a broader effort to discuss humanitarian aid to Gaza and political issues with regional leaders.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola visited Israel a few days after the 7 October attack but failed to visit Palestinian territories.
Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip have intensified since Hamas’s surprise attack on 7 October, which killed more than 1,200 people, including 33 children, as Israel’s full-scale military onslaught on the Gaza Strip has since claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people, including over 5,000 children and 3,500 women, the government media office in the Gaza strip reports.
(Max Griera | Euractiv.com)
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