Belgium hopes EU countries joining forces will result in recognising Palestinian state

Belgium is determined to put an end to violence in Israel and Palestine and plans to gather other European countries in an endeavour to recognise Palestine as an independent state, prime minister Alexander De Croo said on Monday following a meeting in Brussels with his Palestinian counterpart, Mohammad Mustafa.

The meeting took place the day after an Israeli attack on a refugee camp in Rafah, in which dozens of people were killed. “Totally unacceptable,” De Croo said in response. “You lead people to a safe zone, and then they attack it with bombs.”

According to De Croo, it confirms that an end to the violence, a ceasefire and the release of the Israeli hostages by Hamas can be the only priority. Getting out of the conflict "will only be possible if there are responsible and reasonable leaders around the table on both sides", he said.

"When I listen to the prime minister and his ministers here, I see an absolute willingness on the Palestinian side to have that kind of conversation. I hope that soon, there will also be a willingness on the Israeli side to bring reasonable and responsible people around the table. "

"One hundred per cent understanding"

Last week, Spain, Ireland and Norway announced that they would recognise the Palestinian state. Belgium did not follow their example, but according to De Croo, recognition is not a real topic of discussion today. "There was particular appreciation for the role Belgium played because we were one of the first countries to ask for an immediate ceasefire and to stop the violent settlers."

De Croo says there is "one hundred per cent understanding" from the Palestinian side for the role that Belgium wants to play in bringing together a large group of European countries that are starting a process that should lead to a ceasefire and a release of the hostages, and of which the recognition of the Palestinian state must be part.

This was confirmed by Mustafa. “We have a long relationship with Belgium, which has long supported the Palestinian cause, and we appreciate its position on what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank,” he said.

One of the points raised was the financial condition of the Palestinian Authority. Israel is refusing to channel money from Palestinian taxes. "Israel has decided to withhold all our money, meaning we cannot pay our teachers, nurses and police officers. We cannot accept this," Mustafa said.

Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib, Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Mustafa and prime minister Alexander De Croo ahead of a diplomatic meeting in Brussels between Belgium and the Palestinian Authority, 27 May 2024 ©BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS BARAS

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