Arab and EU diplomats meet in Barcelona to discuss Israel war on Gaza

AP , Ahram Online , Monday 27 Nov 2023

Delegations from the European Union member states and Middle Eastern and North African countries are meeting Monday in Barcelona, Spain, to discuss the crisis in Gaza where a fragile pause in fighting is set to expire.

Egypt s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, right, arrives at the Union for the Mediterranean event in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. AP


Forty-two delegations are scheduled to gather at the event hosted by the Union for the Mediterranean, with many represented by their foreign ministers. The meeting is chaired by the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.

Israel is not attending the meeting, which in past years has largely become a forum for cooperation between the EU and the Arab world. Monday’s gathering was supposed to focus on the role of the union 15 years after its founding, but the meeting has taken on new significance since the Oct. 7 Hamas Al-Aqsa Flood operation and Israel’s ensuing war on the Gaza Strip.

Jordan’s Safadi told The Associated Press on the eve of the event that he hopes the talks will help “bridge a gap” between Arab and European countries in calling for a humanitarian pause in Gaza to become a permanent cease-fire.

Safadi said on that the work for a two-state solution must begin with "ensuring an end to this brutal aggression."

During his participation in the forum, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said that European countries need to play a leading role in recognizing a Palestinian state.

Shoukry further stressed that displacement of the Palestinians is utterly rejected internationally; yet Israeli measures continue to push for it, noting that countries opposing this deportation are not undertaking the needful measures to prevent it.

He also emphasized the significant obstruction by Israel, resulting in a limited flow of aid into Gaza.

As a response, Arab and Muslim nations have proposed a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council which aimed at addressing this critical issue, he said.

Borrell from his side emphasized that "Hamas is not just a group of individuals, but rather an idea and ideology that cannot be killed."

He called for an extension of the truce in the Gaza Strip, which is due to end on Tuesday.

"The pause should be extended to make it sustainable and long-lasting while working for a political solution," the Eu top diplomat said.

"We will face unprecedented waves of extremism and violence if the war in Gaza is not stopped," he further added.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the time had come for the international community and the EU to once and for all recognize a Palestinian state during a trip along with his Belgian counterpart to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt last week.

That prompted Israel to recall its ambassadors to Spain and Belgium.

​A small pro-Palestinian group rallied before the gathering at the art nouveau building that once housed Barcelona's Sant Pau Hospital.

The Union for the Mediterranean is an intergovernmental organization formed by the 27 members of the EU and 16 of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, including Israel, and Palestine — represented by the Palestinian Authority — Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan.

The EU is the world’s biggest provider of assistance to the Palestinians. Almost 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) have been earmarked for 2021-2024.

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