EU calls for direct talks between Israel, Palestine

Only direct negotiations can resolve all the problems between Israelis and Palestinians, an EU official said on Tuesday.

"The latest events and the escalation just illustrate how necessary it is to relaunch negotiations on finding a sustainable, peaceful solution to the current situation," Peter Stano, the European Commission's chief spokesperson on foreign affairs, said at the body's daily press conference.

"What is going on in Palestinian territories, in the occupied West Bank, in East Jerusalem, in and around Gaza is really deeply worrying for the European Union," Stano said, adding that the "firing of rockets" from the Gaza Strip against civilian populations in Israel was "totally unacceptable."

He urged all sides to uphold international humanitarian law and avoid further escalation in order to protect civilian lives.

He also underlined that the bloc's ongoing diplomatic efforts were geared towards urgently ending the "recent upsurge of violence" and at restoring "the political horizon."

The EU is committed to relaunching direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that could lead to a two-state solution, he added.

Recent weeks have seen a serious rise in tensions and violence in the occupied West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem, over the eviction of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to construct Israeli settlements.

On Friday and Monday, Israeli security forces clashed with Muslim worshippers near and in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the world’s third holiest Muslim site, firing rubber-coated bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades and wounding hundreds.

The violence escalated further since Monday night. According to Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Palestinian armed groups have launched some 250 rockets towards Israel, while the Israeli military has carried out airstrikes into Gaza.

The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is seen as occupied territory under international law, thus making all Jewish settlements there illegal.

Like Turkey and much of the international community, the EU does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over the territories it has occupied since 1967.

Since 2001, Brussels has repeatedly called on Israel to end all settlement activity and to dismantle those that already exist.

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