EU foreign ministers confirmed the bloc's position that goods coming from occupied territories can not be labeled 'Made in Israel.' Israel has accused the EU of discrimination.
EU Ministers have reiterated the bloc's position that the lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war - including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights - are not part of the internationally recognized borders of Israel. Therefore, goods coming from those locations can not be labeled "Made in Israel."
EU foreign ministers unanimously reinforced their decision to specially label all goods produced in Israeli settlements on Monday.
"We unanimously approved (the statement), it is a good and common basis for our common position and our engagement in the region," said EU external affairs head Federica Mogherini said after a foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.
The foreign ministers stressed, however, that the measures "do not constitute a boycott of Israel."
The statement also voiced the EU's concerns over the recent surge of violence, saying both sides would be held accountable for the bloodshed. "The EU firmly condemns the terror attacks and violence from all sides and in any circumstances, including the deaths of children," the ministers' stated. "The EU is convinced that only the reestablishment of a political horizon and the resumption of dialogue can stop the violence."
Stalled peace process
The EU statement was positively received by Palestine, with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat calling it "a step forward towards accountability." He called on the EU to "take immediate steps, such as banning settlement products".
But Israel responded that the statement was discriminatory and downplayed the role of Palestine in the stalled Middle East peace talks.
"Out of about 200 border conflicts in the world, the European Union is choosing to discriminate only against Israel. This stance prevents the (European) Union from being a fair player in resolving the conflict," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Following the EU's publication of the labeling guidelines, Israel suspended contact with EU bodies working on peace efforts with Palestine - bringing the Middle East peace process to a halt.
The foreign ministers repeated their stance that the Israeli settlements on occupied land were "illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible."
rs/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)