EU insists Israel guidelines do not ‘prejudge’ Palestinian peace talks

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The EU insisted on Friday that guidelines banning any dealings with Israeli Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories do not "prejudge" the outcome of peace talks between the two long-time foes.

"In no way will this prejudge the outcome of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians," EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said.

"It has been the EU's long held position that it will recognise changes made to the borders once agreed by both parties" in talks on a two-state peace accord, Ashton said in a statement.

The statement came as Israel called in the top British, French and German diplomats to protest the guidelines, warning that they could have a serious impact on ties with the EU.

The document, published on Friday, forbids EU member states from funding or dealing with entities in territories occupied by the Jewish state after the Six-Day War in 1967.

"The EU does not recognise Israel's sovereignty over ... the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem... and does not consider them to be part of Israel's territory, irrespective of their legal status under domestic law," the preamble says.

Ashton said the document "reiterates the long-held position that bilateral agreements with Israel do not cover the territory that came under Israel's administration in June 1967." She said this was "meant to clarify the EU's position in advance of negotiations of agreements with Israel" in 2014.

After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned US Secretary of State John Kerry that the EU was "damaging efforts to restart" direct peace talks, Ashton said the EU intention was "to further contribute to an atmosphere conducive to a meaningful and sustainable negotiation leading to a peace agreement."

She also repeated an invitation to Israel to discuss "the territorial scope of agreements with the EU" ahead of the guidelines coming into force from January 2014.

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