The EU Foreign Ministers rejected the calls for trade sanctions against Israel at their meeting in Luxembourg on 15 April.
Instead of imposing trade sanctions against Israel, the Foreign Ministers backed the Middle East peace mission of the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Only Belgium supported the suggestion by the European Parliament to suspend the trade agreement with Israel.
The ministers also turned down the Commission’s proposal to hold an emergency meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council. Germany and Britain said that would be counterproductive.
The ministers discussed a two-year peace plan, put forward by the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer (
see EURACTIV of 10 April 2002). None of the Member States endorsed the German proposal to give Palestinians an independent state in exchange for the end to Palestinian terrorist attacks in Isreal.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for a suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement on 10 April. However, the Parliament's vote is not binding. The Association Agreement provides for preferential trade with the EU, Israel's biggest trading partner.
The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, responded to a proposal by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, to organise a Middle East peace conference without the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. Mr Powell said the conference could go ahead at a "ministerial level" that would allow it to proceed without Arafat.
The EU Foreign Ministers insisted that any Middle East peace conference should include Arafat.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, told the CNN news network that Israeli forces will be out of all West Bank cities and towns except Bethlehem and Ramallah within a week.