Israeli and Palestinian Foreign ministers attend EU Foreign Affairs Council

The Foreign ministers of Israel and Palestine are attending the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday, where the 27 European ministers will try to find a solution to the conflict in Gaza.

Israeli Foreign minister Israel Katz and Palestinian Foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki will be received separately by their European counterparts.

The Council will discuss both Russia's aggression against Ukraine and the situation in the Middle East. Other Middle East players, including Saudi, Jordanian and Egyptian diplomats and representatives of the Arab League, are also attending the council meeting.

Two-state solution

"What we want to do is to build a two-state solution, so let's talk about it," said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on his arrival at the meeting.

"Peace and stability cannot be built only by military means"

Stressing the importance of working with the Arab world, Borrell described the Council as "exceptional" because of the presence of "so many and so important guests in these dramatic circumstances".

Borrell said that "peace and stability cannot be built only by military means", while the Israeli government is currently ruling out a two-state solution as an option.

"If they do not agree, we have to discuss. That is why we are here," Borrell said, adding that the Council would examine "whatever solution" Israel has in mind.

Relaunching the political process

"The aim is to relaunch the political process," Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said on her arrival. "This conflict will not be resolved with weapons," she said.

Belgium will call for "an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages, respect for international law and a return to the peace process, which must lead to the creation of two states living side by side", said Lahbib, who fears the risk of regionalisation of the conflict.

A two-state solution is "the only solution" for Germany

A two-state solution is also "the only solution" for Germany, said its Foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock. "The Israelis can only live in security if the Palestinians live in security and dignity, and the Palestinians can only live in security if the Israelis live in security and dignity," she said.

European countries are concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the number of civilian casualties. EU member states have called for humanitarian pauses, but have so far been unable to agree on a ceasefire.

Some countries, such as Germany, are opposed to a ceasefire because they support Israel's right to defend itself.

Bring back hostages and restore security

The aim of the military operation in Gaza is "to bring back our hostages and restore security for the citizens of Israel," Katz said on Monday, holding up photos of several hostages.

Katz, who took office in early January, did not answer questions about the possibility of a two-state solution.

The war, which has devastated Gaza and displaced more than 80 per cent of its population, was triggered by a Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7 that killed 1,140 people, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli figures.

Israel has since vowed to destroy Hamas, which took power in Gaza in 2007. According to the Hamas Health ministry, 25,105 people have been killed in Israeli military operations in the Palestinian territory.


Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz (left) talks with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell (right) during a Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels on 22 January 2024 © JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP

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