The European Union is seeking a more central role in the Middle East peace process, EU’s chief of diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, said on the eve of her official visit to the region. Following years of unsuccessful peace talks led by the U.S. administration, Mrs Mogherini now wants to leverage Europe’s position as Israel’s biggest trade partner and Palestinians’ biggest aid donor. Her imminent aim is to make progress in the most recent struggle to broker a two-state solution. She says that the EU is “ready and willing to play a major role in a re-launching of this process on the basis of the two-state solution.” Although the EU chief diplomat also refused to hint what alternatives to the decade-old two-state option might be, she was clear to say that “the status quo is not an option”.
Mrs Mogherini is meeting Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, today and tomorrow (20-21 May). She said that her visit in the Middle East had a “political meaning” and she had seen a chance for the EU to assume a more prominent role in the conflict resolution given the absence of major moves from Washington. Federica Mogherini assured that she wanted to listen to both sides. Israel has recently appointed Silvan Shalom as the new chief negotiator in the peace talks, who has replaced Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union.
However, the EU remains internally divided over what should exactly be done in the Middle East. Some EU members have become impatient with the Israeli government especially over the on-going expansion of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law. As a result of the protracted limbo in the peace process, some countries have recognized the Palestinian state while Vatican did the same in a treaty last week. The EU is a member of the Quartet on the Middle East together with the United Nations, United States and Russia. The diplomatic quarter was formed in 2002 following the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000.