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EU pledges 42.5m euros ahead of talks on Middle East peace efforts

Brussels – The European Union has pledged 42.5 million euros (52.9 million dollars) towards Palestinian state-building efforts ahead of a high-level meeting in Brussels on the stalled Middle East peace process.

Wednesday's talks brought together top Israeli, Palestinian, US and Arab politicians and officials for the first time since US President Donald Trump's controversial decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

The US decision defied international consensus that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of future Israeli and Palestinian states, prompting the Palestinians to insist that Washington should no longer have a role in the peace process.

"The US are essential for any process to realistically have a chance to succeed," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.
She also called on the US "to understand that alone it will be more difficult to achieve anything."

Efforts to end the conflict in the Middle East

The Trump administration has said it would present its own plan to end the conflict in the Middle East, but no details have emerged so far.

Wednesday's meeting brings together Palestinian, Israeli and US counterparts, Mogherini said. Ahead of the talks, she held meetings Tuesday with Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, among others.

The talks, chaired by Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide, are taking place under the auspices of the so-called Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, which supports institution-building in preparation for Palestinian statehood.

The EU funds will go towards activities in East Jerusalem while also helping build a Palestinian state through policy reforms, debt reduction, support for businesses and Palestinian civil society as well as access to water and energy, according to Mogherini.

The announcement comes after the United States decided earlier this month to withhold 65 million dollars in funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the main United Nations body responsible for Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Israeli daily Haaretz reported Wednesday that Israel would submit a 1-billion-dollar plan to ease the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip and ask the international community to fund it.

EU disagreement with Trump's decision

Israel is "eager to find creative solutions" to the crisis in Gaza, Hanegbi tweeted Wednesday.

The Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee comprises Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the EU and the US, Canada, Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as well as its chair, Norway.

Wednesday's meeting comes as the EU has been intensifying efforts to find a solution for the crisis in the Middle East.

EU foreign ministers hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in January.

During those meetings, the EU made clear that it did not agree with Trump's December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.