European foreign ministers fail to reach consensus on Gaza violence

European foreign ministers discussed the situation in Gaza during a “working lunch” at their monthly meeting in Brussels on Monday. But they did not release a statement on the matter, a sign of a lack of consensus on the issue.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, whose country has been among the of Israel’s actions to prevent a breach of the Gaza fence during the recent riots there, said before the meeting that he initiated the discussion on Gaza because “I am deeply concerned about the force used against protesters, and I will discuss with my fellow ministers how we might work towards breaking the cycle of violence and improving conditions for people living in Gaza.”

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EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, in comments she made before the meeting, linked the developments in Gaza to the US Embassy move to Jerusalem, something the EU adamantly opposed.

“We warned that political moves might have broad consequences, and unfortunately we have proven to be right,” she said. “We would have preferred not to be right in this occasion.”

But Coveney’s and Mogherini’s statements do not reflect the opinion of all the 28 EU-member states, with Czech Republic Foreign Minister Martin Stropnický issuing a last week saying the violence in Gaza on May 14 that led to the deaths of 61 Palestinians had nothing to do with the US Embassy move, and rushing the security fence should be regarded as a form of terrorism.

Differences of opinion inside the EU regarding how to view the events in Gaza were on display earlier in the month as well, when the UN Human Rights Commission voted to establish a commission of inquiry. In that vote, which passed 29-2, with 14 abstentions and two no-shows, three EU countries voted for the measure, Spain, Slovenia and Belgium, while five abstained,Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

Earlier this month, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic blocked a EU statement against the move of the US Embassy, and other countries, including Slovakia, Greece and Poland, reportedly also expressed reservations.
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