25th February 2024
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Sánchez calls for international peace conference and to establish ‘viable Palestinian state’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez proposed an international peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to forge a viable Palestinian state in a meeting on Thursday with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

‘It is in Israel’s interest to work for peace, and today, peace means the establishment of a viable Palestinian state that includes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, according to the UN resolutions,’ the recently re-elected socialist Sánchez, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told his Israeli counterpart Netanyahu.

While Sánchez stressed that he backed Israel’s ‘right’ to defend itself following the ´atrocities’ carried out by Hamas on 7 October, he also said the number of Palestinians killed by Israel’s military response ‘is truly unbearable’.

Israel has said 1,200 people were killed and 239 people taken hostage when Hamas fighters crossed the border in the unprecedented attack. The Hamas-run health ministry says that more than 14,100 people have been killed in Israel’s military riposte on Gaza.

Sánchez, who was also to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank later on Thursday, has repeatedly endorsed the two-state solution — a Palestinian state established in territory that Israel captured in 1967 — since the conflict began.

As he was sworn in for a new term this month, Sánchez said his foreign policy priority would be to ‘work in Europe and in Spain to recognise the Palestinian state’.

Sánchez will on Friday travel to Egypt. He is accompanied on his trip to the Middle East by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, whose country will take over the EU presidency on 1 January.

Prospects for reviving peace talks, frozen since the last US-brokered round collapsed in 2014, have dimmed further with war raging between Israel and Gaza’s ruling Palestinian Islamist group Hamas for almost seven weeks.

‘Today, more than ever, we need to bring back a serious and credible prospect for peace,’ Sanchez said after talks with Netanyahu. ‘Without a political settlement, we are bound to run again into a never-ending cycle of violence.’

Sánchez said he and unspecified colleagues had proposed holding an international peace conference with the parties as soon as possible. He said the European Union, Arab League and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation had endorsed the idea.

US officials have said the time is not right to try to resume peace talks given the protracted intransigence of both sides.

Last week, Sánchez said a Union for the Mediterranean summit in Barcelona on 27-28 November would be an ‘ideal place’ to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian dialogue as the two sides would ‘sit on an equal footing’ there.

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), the self-rule body set up under interim peace accords in the 1990s, are members of the Mediterranean grouping along with neighbours Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.

In 1991, Madrid hosted a multilateral peace conference aimed at resolving the conflict through negotiations based on a ‘land for peace’ formula, eventually leading to the 1993 Oslo interim accords that set up the PA.

But a series of follow-up negotiations aimed at creating a Palestinian state in territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war foundered on intractable differences over borders, Palestinian refugees, Israel’s steady expansion of settlements on occupied land, and the status of Jerusalem.

Pedro Sánchez, together with the Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander de Croo, with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Israel on 23 November 2023. (Pool Moncloa / Borja Puig de la Bellacasa).

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