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Israel-EU peace diplomacy in question

Israel has announced that it is suspending contact with the European Union. The move follows an EU decision to label Israeli settlement products.

The European Union vowed to continue its role in the Middle East peace process on Monday despite Israel's suspending contact. EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the

Paris climate talks

and promised to continue the bloc's work to end conflict in the region.

A day prior, Israel announced that it was putting on hold all contact with EU institutions involved in peace talks with the Palestinians. The decision from the Foreign Ministry, which is also headed by Netanyahu, comes on the heels of an EU move to

label products of Israeli settlements in the West Bank,

viewed as illegal under international law. Israel branded the new labels "discriminatory" and politically motivated, despite Europe's assertion that it was a simple matter of following EU commercial codes.

Maliki: Israel move a 'stupid threat'

A ministry statement said that Netanyahu had asked them to carry out "a reassessment of the involvement of EU bodies in everything that is connected to the diplomatic process with the Palestinians."

"Until completion of the reassessment, the Prime Minister has ordered a suspension of diplomatic contacts with the EU and its representatives in this matter," the statement continued. The ministry then canceled several planned meetings with EU organizations and officials.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon elaborated: "It is true that there is no peace process...but the European Union wants to be involved in a variety of projects, some of them...regarding Palestinian welfare."

"With all those projects, we will need to re-examine whether it is feasible to consider the European Union as a partner while it is using measures of discrimination and boycott against the State of Israel," he continued, prompting his Palestinian counterpart Riyad Al-Maliki to condemn the move as a "stupid threat" revealing Israel's enmity towards Europe.

EU will not give up peace role

But Mogherini defended the EU's position in the peace process on Monday during her conversation with Netanyahu. "EU-Israel relations are good, broad and deep and this will continue," her spokeswoman said at a Brussels press briefing.

"When it comes to the Middle East peace process, the EU continues and will continue to work on this in the Quartet with our partners with both parties because of course peace in the Middle East is of interest to the whole international community," she added.

The Quartet refers to the EU, the United Nations, the US and Russia, who together make up the team of international peace brokers attempting to bring an end to the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

es/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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