Middle East will be on the agenda 'more than ever' during Belgian EU Presidency
The Middle East will be on the agenda "more than ever" during Belgium's upcoming EU presidency, the country's Foreign minister said after visiting the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.
Belgian Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib visited the three countries from Thursday to Sunday for bilateral talks with her counterparts and Arab League officials on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"My aim in going to the region was to combine our efforts to achieve de-escalation," said Lahbib. "I have indicated our full availability and desire to participate in any initiative aimed at relaunching the peace process," she said.
Belgium will take over the EU presidency from Spain on 1 January. "The Middle East was on the agenda of our Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and it will be more than ever," said Lahbib.
'Sense of double standards'
On Friday, the UN General Assembly voted in favour of the resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce in Gaza. The discussions during the vote "revealed a great deal of misunderstanding and a sense of double standards on the part of the West," said Lahbib.
Belgium and several other EU countries voted in favour of the resolution, which was tabled by Jordan on behalf of the Arab group. However, the majority of EU countries abstained and some voted against. Israel and the United States criticised the resolution for not mentioning Hamas.
"There was a need to clarify and reiterate a key message: Belgium remains fully committed, within the European Union and with its international partners, to advocating de-escalation and helping to put an end to the vicious circle of violence, in the interests of both the Israeli and Palestinian local populations," said Lahbib.
Ensuring respect for international law
"We voted for the Jordanian resolution at the UN because we support a humanitarian truce. We must do everything we can to get aid to the people of Gaza. The situation is tragic," she said. "The international community faces the challenge of ensuring respect for international law," said Lahbib.
Lahbib also reiterated Belgium's call for the immediate release of hostages taken by Hamas. "Such practices by the terrorist movement Hamas are not only illegal but also morally indefensible," she said. The Foreign minister concluded by stressing that a two-state solution is the only possible outcome for Belgium.
Belgian Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib during a meeting with United Arab Emirates Foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi © BELGA PHOTO HAND OUT / BELGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY/ ERIC HERCHAFT