EU Foreign Ministers discuss Middle East situation

The Foreign Ministers of the 15 EU Member States will discuss the situation in the Middle East at the General Affairs Council on 15 April in Luxembourg.

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The ministers will review the EU's contribution to ending the Middle East crisis following the mission of the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who held talks with both Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat on 14 April. No breakthrough was achieved at these meetings.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, suggested that a US-led regional conference between Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Palestinian representatives should be organised to address the crisis. Mr Sharon said that Mr Powell had supported the proposal during their talks on 14 April.

Some EU Member States and members of the European Parliament have suggested that Brussels should apply pressure on Israel by suspending the Association Agreement that provides for free trade between the EU and Israel. Others, notably the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Elmar Brok, insist that the EU should also freeze its financial support to Yasser Arafat. Belgium and Spain want the EU to consider tough sanctions against Israel. However, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands oppose this initiative.

Israeli officials warned that such sanctions would end the EU's involvement in the attempts to resolve the Middle East crisis.

The EU ministers will also discuss the Middle East crisis with visiting Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov.


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