Jerusalem, 25 February 1997


(Communicated by Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

Representatives of embassies in Israel from the "Troika" (the rotating presidency of the European Union), which currently comprises the Netherlands, Ireland and Luxembourg, met yesterday (Monday), 24.2.97, with the acting director general of the Foreign Ministry, Deputy Director General for the Middle East and the Peace Process Yoav Biran. During their meeting, the diplomats emphasized that while the European Union welcomes the Hebron agreement and recognizes Israel’s commitment to the peace process, it is very concerned over plans to build in the Har Homa area.

Biran responded that he would of course, pass on their message to Foreign Minister David Levy. He also noted that additional positive steps (apart from the release of female Palestinian prisoners) have been made which prove the Israeli government’s commitment to the process. With respect to construction in Jerusalem, he stressed that this should not be viewed as an obstacle to peace but rather as a natural implementation of the government’s policy to develop the city and to ensure the welfare of Jewish and Arab residents alike. Just as the Israeli government takes care to develop industry, education and health services, it also bears responsibility for providing housing for its residents. Biran added that the area at issue is under Israeli sovereignty, was expropriated primarily from Jewish owners and stated that the government would not accept any limitations in this regard. If the parties to the political process consider themselves committed to the process, as Israel does, then they should not set up any obstacles, he said.

The Dutch ambassador asked whether the government had had any contact with Palestinian Authority officials regarding the Har Homa building plan. Biran answered that Israel maintains regular contacts with the Authority, but that no prior discussion is necessary with respect to the development of Jerusalem. He added that Israel is committed to the agreements, while the activity of Palestinian Authority institutions in eastern Jerusalem is clearly a gross violation of the agreement. However, it should be recalled that the agreement contains no provision which limits

Israel regarding building and developing Jerusalem.