EU congratulates Netanyahu, insists on peace process

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Brussels, Mar 19: EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his election victory but stressed the need to relaunch the Middle East peace process which he appeared to repudiate during the campaign.

In a phone call, Mogherini spoke to Netanyahu "to congratulate him for the result achieved in the Israeli general elections," her office said in a statement yesterday.

Benjamin Netanyahu

"She confirmed the readiness of the EU to work with the new Israeli government on the mutually beneficial bilateral relationship as well as the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," the statement said.

"She stressed the need for the relaunch of the peace negotiations with the aim of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution," it added.

On the last day of campaigning and with polls suggesting he might lose, Netanyahu had said he would not accept the establishment of a Palestinian state, a key part of the two-state solution backed by the EU and the international community, and which he had accepted in 2009. An earlier statement from Mogherini made no direct reference to the two-state solution itself.

"Federica Mogherini and Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to work together for the security of Israel and that of the region," the later statement said.

"The EU is ready to work with both sides and the international community, including partners in the Middle East region, to see the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition," it added.

Earlier this week, EU foreign ministers named Fernando Gentilini as the bloc's new special representative for the Middle East, filling a post vacant since early 2014 in the hope of getting the stalled peace process back on track.

The EU has been a major provider of aid to the Palestinian Authority but last year's bloody war in Gaza dented confidence, with some member states reluctant to provide more without progress on a lasting peace deal.

Mogherini has been criticised in Israel but she insists a two-state solution is the only way forward and has repeatedly condemned Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories as a threat to the peace process. 

AFP

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