Fri, Jul 23, 2004 - Page 1 News List

EU foreign policy chief denounces Israeli wall

AP , TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana, right, talks to Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Tel Aviv yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

During a visit to Israel yesterday, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the West Bank separation barrier violates international law.

"A country has the right to build a fence on its own territory, but we believe the route of this fence is contrary to international law," Solana said during a joint news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

Solana's comments came just two days after the EU infuriated Israeli leaders by supporting a UN General Assembly resolution calling on Israel to tear down the barrier in compliance with a world court ruling.

"The government and people of Israel are deeply disappointed by Europe's decision to vote with the Palestinians and against the fence," Shalom said.

"The EU should be engaged in promoting Palestinian reform in Gaza and Ramallah, not Palestinian manipulation in the UN," Shalom said, adding that Europe's vote "encourages the Palestinians to continue their evasion of responsibility" on fighting terror.

Israel has long accused the EU of being unbalanced and has pushed Europe to the sidelines of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking efforts.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refused to meet with the Quartet -- made up of envoys from the US, Europe, the UN and Russia. Sharon's spokesman said at the time that Israel would not discuss peacemaking or security issues with Europe.

Solana and Shalom met for an hour before the news conference amid an atmosphere of rising tensions between Israel and Europe. Israeli media reported that Israel blamed France for persuading EU countries to support the resolution.

"The fence goes through occupied territories and from the very beginning we have been against that, it's no surprise," Solana said.

"The security of Israel and the protecting of the Israeli people is something we have always supported and we'll continue to support," he said.

Shalom said Israel had hoped the meetings with Solana would focus on improving Israeli-European relations but were redirected because of the UN vote.

"This visit is now taking place in the shadow of Europe's vote ... Much of our time today was spent in a frank discussion of the issue," Shalom said.

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