Belgian PM: Palestinian Authority wants to link peace talks to future of territories

The Palestinian Authority wants to link peace talks with Israel about an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the release of Hamas hostages to talks on the future of the Palestinian territories, Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said on Tuesday after a meeting with his Palestinian counterpart, Mohammad Mustafa.

De Croo contacted the Palestinians at the request of US president Joe Biden in connection with the launch of a peace process. Shortly before their meeting, Biden had proposed a "roadmap to lasting peace and the release of all hostages" by the Israelis and asked Belgium to persuade the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table.

A good basis

"The Palestinians see the plan as a good basis for bringing the two sides to the table," De Croo told Belga after a meeting with Mustafa. "But they want the talks to cover not only a ceasefire and the release of hostages, but also the governance of the Palestinian territories, access to humanitarian aid, security guarantees and the reconstruction of schools, among other things, because hundreds of thousands of children today have no access to education."

The talks should cover both the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the militant organisation Hamas, and the West Bank, which is partly controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Belgium has made it clear that the Palestinians need to distance themselves from Hamas to increase their legitimacy.

De Croo will now report back to the US, which is in contact with Israel. He hopes the plan now on the table could be a turning point and is pleased that Belgium can play its role as president of the EU Council. "If we are asked to help in other areas, we will do so."


Alexander De Croo during a visit to the Rafah border crossing in November 2023 © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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