Politics, Middle East, Europe

EU's Borrell warns of Israel's 'clear will' to annex West Bank 'little by little'

'We are nowhere in terms of a cease-fire' in Gaza,' says Josep Borrell

Burak Bir  | 24.06.2024 - Update : 25.06.2024
EU's Borrell warns of Israel's 'clear will' to annex West Bank 'little by little'


The European Union’s foreign policy chief said Monday that Israel seems to have a "clear will" to annex the occupied West Bank "little by little," warning that this will not lead to peace.

"There seems to be a clear will to annex the West Bank, little by little, bit by bit. There seems to be that will, and that's certainly not going to lead to peace," Josep Borrell said at a press conference following the bloc's Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg.

Noting that a cease-fire has not been reached in Gaza despite three weeks passing since a proposal was put forth supported by the international community, he said: "We are nowhere in terms of a cease-fire."

Borrell said that a recent press conference by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed clearly that neither sides are willing to implement this proposal.

Referring to a joint statement issued together with EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic, Borrel stressed that the humanitarian situation in the besieged enclave is "just disastrous."

Citing Cindy McCain, the director of the World Food Program, Borrel said: "There is no progress at all on the humanitarian support entering into Gaza. Hostages are still being held and thousands of trucks are waiting to enter (Gaza)."

He said a famine is looming in Gaza, where more than 8,000 children below five years old are facing severe malnutrition.

"There is no point to continue sending more food to the border if they cannot come into (Gaza).

"This is a real concern for all member states. Certainly we have to continue our pressure in order to make the humanitarian support to be able to enter into Gaza. But this is not going to happen without a cease-fire. It is clear now," he added.

'We have very grave topics to put on the table'

Borrell said the EU will convene an Association Council with Israel, as he has received a positive answer from Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, adding this will not be a "business as usual" meeting.

"We are not calling this meeting to discuss the Erasmus implementation. It is clear that we have very grave topics to put on the table," he noted.

Also noting that there has been a political agreement on proceeding with sanctions against the Palestinian group Hamas and violent Israeli settlers, Borrell said it will be converted into concrete measures to be adopted soon by written procedure.

"We do not know exactly what the end goal is of the Netanyahu government. They continue saying that they will continue the war until total victory," he said, adding however there are "voices” coming from the Israeli army themselves “questioning this purpose."

In response to a question on whether the war will last long, Borrell said: "It seems so. Unfortunately, it is a war that is going to test the survival of Palestinians in Gaza."

"All member states reiterated their support to UNRWA (UN agency for Palestinian refugees) which is being considered...a life-saving service for the Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and the region," added Borrell.

Immobilized Russian assets

Sanctions against Russia was another top agenda item during the Foreign Affairs Council meeting, said Borrell, recalling that they have adopted a 14th package of sanctions against Russia.

"With this package, we will have over 100 listings and a dozen economic measures to help counter circumvention and to cut Russia’s revenues – mainly in the field of trade with gas, LNG," he said.

He noted that "unhappily," they went out of the Council exactly as they came in on the seven legal acts intended to deblock the European Peace Facility (EPF).

He said there is still one member state that is blocking the use of about €6 billion ($6.44 billion ) from the facility.

"But as I commented this morning, the windfall profits coming from Russian assets frozen in Europe – not the assets themselves -- will be used in the swiftest possible manner for the benefit of Ukraine."

He added that €1.4 billion will be available in the course of the next month and another €1 billion by the end of the year.

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