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Arab and E.U. ministers to discuss Gaza war, peace efforts

REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM
                                Palestinians walk by houses which were destroyed in an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
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REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM

Palestinians walk by houses which were destroyed in an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.

BRUSSELS >> Ministers from Arab states will meet with European Union counterparts in Brussels on Monday to try to forge a common path on ending the war in Gaza and build lasting peace, a senior EU official said.

Representatives from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will join a regular meeting of foreign ministers from the 27-member EU, said Sven Koopmans, the EU’s special representative for the Middle East peace process.

Koopmans said the gathering was one of a series at which Arab and European countries were seeking common positions on ways to end the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

“Our assignment is to see how we can build a coalition where we try collectively to contribute (to peace efforts) without putting people in a corner,” Koopmans told Reuters.

The EU has been riven by divisions over the war in Gaza, which followed Hamas’s deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

Those divisions were on show again on Wednesday when EU members Spain and Ireland – along with Norway – said they would recognise a Palestinian state while France and Germany made clear they did not think the time was right.

Israel made a new push in central Gaza on Monday in a war in which nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the enclave’s health ministry. Some 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 taken hostage in Hamas’s rampage, according to Israeli tallies. About 125 people are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza.

Koopmans said EU members agreed on core priorities such as ending the war, avoiding a regional war and working towards a peace settlement in which Israel and a Palestinian state would live side by side.

“We may have different positions on recognition but we have unanimity on the need for a Palestinian state,” he said.

However, international efforts to agree on plans for Gaza after the war on issues such as who would govern the enclave and who would be responsible for security have floundered.

Koopmans declined to provide details about Monday’s discussions but said a major effort involving the United States and Arab and European countries is necessary to establish peace.

“Nobody alone is sufficient. But if we work together, and we are working on doing something concretely together, maybe we’re just about sufficient, at least to get things started,” he said.

The Biden administration has made clear it also supports a two-state solution as the basis for lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, along with security guarantees for Israel.

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