Two states is ‘only solution’ to Israel-Palestine conflict, says EU special envoy

Posted on : 2024-04-04 16:52 KST Modified on : 2024-04-04 17:34 KST
Sven Koopmans, the EU special representative for the Middle East peace process, asked for Korea’s support in realizing peace
Sven Koopmans, the European Union special representative for the Middle East peace process, speaks to reporters at the headquarters of the delegation of the European Union in Seoul’s Jung District on April 1, 2024. (courtesy of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea)
Sven Koopmans, the European Union special representative for the Middle East peace process, speaks to reporters at the headquarters of the delegation of the European Union in Seoul’s Jung District on April 1, 2024. (courtesy of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea)

A European envoy advocating peace in the Middle East has observed that no one — not even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — has come up with anything better than the two-state solution.

Sven Koopmans, the EU’s special representative for the Middle East peace process, stressed that the two-state solution is the ultimate way to end the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and resolve the Palestinian conflict.

Koopmans, a former member of the Dutch House of Representatives, was appointed to the position of special representative in May 2021. During Israel’s war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has now lasted for six months, he has been visiting various countries, including Japan, China and South Korea, to discuss potential solutions to the Palestinian issue.

When the Hankyoreh sat down with Koopmans at the downtown Seoul office of the EU delegation to South Korea on Monday, the EU special representative said that the first priority in the war in Gaza is for Israel and Hamas to agree to a “humanitarian pause leading to a lasting ceasefire.”

Koopmans added that preparations need to be made to establish peace between Israel and Palestine, and also between the Arab states.

In the end, Koopmans stressed, the two-state solution is the “only solution” that can resolve the current situation.

Israel and Palestine agreed in the Oslo Accords, in 1993, to coexist peacefully and independently, but they haven’t made any progress toward that goal in subsequent years.

Koopmans said that stabilizing the Gaza Strip will require effort from both sides toward achieving the two-state solution.

There are currently growing concerns that the conflict in Gaza could escalate into a regional war in the Middle East. Since the start of the war in Gaza, tensions have been building between Israel and the “axis of resistance” made up of Iran, Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, among others. Tensions in the region skyrocketed on Monday, when Iran vowed it would retaliate after Israel bombed the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus, Syria.

Koopmans cited numerous casualties in skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon and noted that the EU has heard disturbing reports from local officials that preparations are underway for a wider war.

Even before the war broke out, the EU had been working on a plan for brokering a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine. In recent months, it has been trying to broaden the discussion to include Arab states.

“We are used to mediation, usually led by the United States, but it hasn't been effective so far on the two-state solution,” Koopmans said. He explained that the EU is “working to prepare” two-state peace with a number of Arab partners by mapping out regional politics and security arrangements in advance.

The EU special representative also asked Korea to keep working for peace in the Middle East. According to figures provided by the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Korean government gave US$2 million in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Egyptian Red Crescent last year and US$8 million, or four times that amount, this year.

“I hope that South Korea will also support the Middle East peace process, and I think there are many areas where South Korea and the EU can cooperate, such as working together in the UN Security Council to achieve a ceasefire, the release of hostages, and progress in the peace process discussions,” the envoy said. 

By Jang Ye-ji, staff reporter

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