Last updated: 23 January, 2014

Israel PM urges European fairness in Mideast

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Europe on Thursday to demonstrate fairness in its Middle East policy, after a spat over settlements blew up last week.

Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Netanyahu said Europe could make a positive contribution in the Middle East but warned that it could also have a “negative effect.”

“If Europe is seen to be one-sided and if Europe is seen to be unfairly pressing on Israel, it hardens the Palestinian position and coincidentally it hardens the Israeli position because people respond that way to these kinds of undue pressures,” Netanyahu told Davos delegates.

“I think if Europe maintains its fairness and its balance, I think it can contribute a great deal,” he added.

Netanyahu’s comments came after a diplomatic row sparked by four EU states lodging a formal protest against Tel Aviv’s drive to expand settlements on the West Bank.

Last Friday, Israel called in the ambassadors of the countries concerned — Britain, France, Italy and Spain — and accused Europe of a “hypocritical” attitude towards the Middle East process.

Netanyahu said he would be holding talks on Friday with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the Middle East peace process and reiterated his desire for peace.

“I’m ready for peace. I’m ready for a real, secure, genuine peace and I hope that (Palestinian) President (Mahmud) Abbas is too, because if he is, I’m sure our American friends will only help,” the Israeli prime minister said.