Israel, Palestinians congratulate EU, urge peace efforts

Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (R) welcomes European Council President Herman van Rompuy (L) ahead of their meeting in Riga on October 12, 2012. The Nobel Peace Prize was Friday awarded to the European Union, an institution wracked by the euro crisis but credited with bringing more than half a century of peace to a continent ripped apart by two world wars. AFP PHOTO/ILMARS ZNOTINS

JERUSALEM: Israel and the Palestinians congratulated the European Union on Friday for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and said they expected the EU to continue its peacemaking efforts in the Middle East.

An Israeli foreign ministry statement said it "extends its congratulations" to the EU, and called its success in establishing peace in Europe after two world wars "an inspiration to the whole family of nations."

"The EU crystallises the way of reason and compromise through which nations can overcome hostility and ancient conflicts, and establish good neighbourly relations, mutual trust and cooperation for the common good," it said.

The statement noted Israel's "particular interest in the European peacemaking achievement."

"During World War II, the Jewish People lost one third of its members on European soil, and European reconciliation, therefore, affects Israel directly," it said.

The foreign ministry also noted the EU's "special responsibility for achieving peace in its neighbourhood area, and for maintaining vigilance in the face of displays of racism and anti-Semitism within its borders."

"We expect the EU to continue its efforts for promoting peace in the Middle East, through a supportive approach and understanding of the special sensitivities of the area," the statement read.

The EU is part of the peacemaking Quartet that has been making efforts to renew direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which began in September 2010 but ran aground weeks later in an intractable dispute over settlement building.

In July, the EU approved 60 new cooperation activities with Israel in fields such as transport, energy and the environment despite criticism from the Palestinian authorities and rights groups.

Europeans and Israel disagree over the issue of settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and Brussels regularly condemns such activity.

Last month, a planned meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly failed to take place due to scheduling conflicts.

On the Palestinian side, foreign minister Riyad al-Malki also sent his congratulations to the Europeans, while at the same time imploring them to "remember that the Palestinian issue is still relevant" and expressing regret the peacemaking Quartet "has not done its job."

"We expect to see more work from the EU and it to utilise this prize to solve our problem and give the Palestinian people their right to have a state," he told AFP.





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