Labour MEPs: "Palestinian recognition can be delivered through EU common position"

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A coordinated EU "common position" could deliver international recognition of a Palestinian state, the European Parliament was told this afternoon.

Proposing recognition for Palestinian statehood, Richard Howitt MEP, who called the debate as foreign affairs spokesperson for the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, said the move was already being discussed by EU foreign ministers and represented an attempt to restart the Roadmap towards Middle East peace.

Opening the debate, he said:

"Today's debate is quite simply saying if we support a two state solution then we must support Palestine as a state.

"It is an attempt to break the deadlock in which the viability of the two state solution is increasingly questioned, and to avoid a new apartheid which some say is already here.

"We used to talk about a Roadmap but that's been forgotten and this is an attempt to restart the journey.

"This parliamentary initiative can provide extra impetus which can finally bring talks to success and peace to the Middle East."

Arguing that recognition of Palestinian statehood is supported by senior political and diplomatic figures from Israel and informed by continuing violence, Mr Howitt added:

"Recognition is supported by former Israeli Ambassadors to France, Turkey and South Africa, the former Israeli Attorney-General and the former Speaker of the Knesset.

"They are not anti-Israel and I promise you neither are we.

"My Group absolutely joins the condemnation of the horrendous Har Nof synagogue bombing.

"But the conclusion we draw from this and other terrorist acts is that the status quo is failing to guarantee peace and security for the Israeli people.

"On the day of the award of the Sakharov Prize, our Parliament should remember the Israeli woman who we awarded the Sakharov Prize to in 2001, who lost her own child to a Palestinian suicide bomber, but who today asks us to support this proposal."

Richard Howitt MEP said Labour and its sister parties in the European Parliament supported a return to peace talks and would never condone violence, but challenged critics of the move, saying:

"An Israeli diplomat called this move "handing recognition to Palestinians on a silver platter".

"Some platter.

"But as my own party in Britain has said: Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised."

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