Arab states, EU agree on need for two-state solution to Israel crisis

By Joan Faus

BARCELONA (Reuters) -Arab states and the European Union agreed at a meeting in Spain on Monday that a two-state solution was the answer to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell saying the Palestinian Authority should rule Gaza.

Borrell said all EU members attending the meeting of Mediterranean nations in Barcelona and almost all attendees overall had agreed on the need for a two-state solution.

The Palestinian Authority must hold elections and improve its functioning but is the only “viable solution” to the future leadership of Gaza, currently run by Hamas Islamists, to avoid a “power vacuum”, he said.

A current four-day truce is the first halt in fighting in the seven weeks since Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages back into Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

In response to that attack, Israel bombarded the enclave and mounted a ground offensive in the north. Some 14,800 Palestinians have been killed, Gaza health authorities say, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Hamas said it wanted to extend the truce. An Israeli official told Reuters the onus was on Hamas to produce a new list of 10 hostages it could free on Tuesday in exchange for that becoming an additional truce day.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the Palestinian people should decide who rules them, and that any talk of administration of Gaza after the conflict should focus on the West Bank and Gaza as one entity.

A two-state solution envisages a state for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip alongside Israel.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the Palestinian Authority, which lost control of the Gaza Strip in a 2007 power struggle with Hamas, had no need to return to Gaza, adding: “We have been there all the time, we have 60,000 public workers there.”

The three were speaking at the conclusion of a short meeting of the Forum for the Union of the Mediterranean in Barcelona, a 43-member grouping of European, North African and Middle Eastern countries.

Israel did not attend the summit. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan spoke as a representative of a group of ministers from the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

He said he hoped the truce that began on Friday would last “a few more days”.

Palestinian Foreign Minister al-Maliki said Qatar, Egypt, the United States and the European Union were working to extend the truce, warning if it was not extended, the death toll would double because Gaza’s population was now concentrated in the south of the strip.

“We have an opportunity today that will end tonight, to extend the ceasefire… I count on the support of my colleagues… for us to all leave here with a loud and strong voice that can be heard in all parts of the world: no to the war, yes to the ceasefire,” he said.

Jordan’s Safadi added, however: “Some among us are still refusing to call for a ceasefire… We demand it be implemented immediately.”

(Reporting by Joan Faus; Writing by David Latona and Aislinn Laing, Editing by Ed Osmond, Alex Richardson and Nick Macfie)