Palestinian minister hails Europe's recognition debates

Palestinian minister hails Europe's recognition debates

The Palestinian deputy prime minister has hailed European countries' latest steps to grant official recognition to Palestine, describing these as "sending a strong signal to Israel to change its policy", Anadolu Agency reported.

Speaking in Istanbul on the fringes of a meeting of an Organization of the Islamic Cooperation meeting, Mohammad Mustafa said that: "We appreciate the increasing international recognition for Palestinian statehood."

His remarks came ahead of a French parliamentary debate on Friday over recognizing Palestine. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that he supported recognizing the country "by the end of 2016 based on [a] UN Security Council resolution."

The U.K. and Spanish parliaments, as well as the Irish senate, have delivered non-binding endorsements, reflecting growing frustrations with the sputtering Israel-Palestine peace process. On Oct. 30, Sweden formally recognized the state of Palestine, becoming the first European Union member state to do so.

"These are all indications that the world sees that we are on the right path and our policy is reasonable and balanced," Mustafa noted.

A handful of European countries - including Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - recognized Palestine as a state before joining the EU. In late 2012, Palestine was granted non-member observer status at the United Nations.

As Israel is set to debate a controversial bill, Mustafa -- who is also Minister of National Economy - accused the country of not being dedicated to resolving the conflict with Palestine.

The bill, which aims to define Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, has been criticized by the country's president Shimon Peres, who said it would hurt Israel's image and erode its "democratic principles."

"The latest events (in al-Aqsa mosque) indicate that the Israeli government is not serious about peace or maintaining at least the calm and quiet atmosphere needed to create an environment for peace," said Mustafa.

Jerusalem has been tense ever since the al-Aqsa mosque complex was stormed earlier this month by a group of extreme Jewish settlers and Israeli security forces, prompting sustained clashes with angry Palestinians.

For Muslims, the al-Aqsa mosque is Islam's third holiest site. Jews refer to the area as the Temple Mount, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in Biblical times.

Mustafa called on the international community to take action. "If they (the international community) are serious about the two-state solution or peace between Israel and Palestine, they should make the Israeli government calm the situation in Jerusalem."

As a condition for peace, the minister urged Israel to "stop settlements on Palestinian land. If (settlements) continue, it will kill the two-state solution."

"Israel should also enter into serious negotiations with the Palestinian leadership to end the occupation that has lasted since 1967," he added.

Peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators collapsed in April.

The talks were aimed at finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the roots of which date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous 'Balfour Declaration,' called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state - a move never recognized by the international community.

The Palestinian official said: "We believe that two to three years will be enough time to finish all negotiations and execute these agreements to establish the state."

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