At Lithuanian diplomats' initiative, the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a historical visit to Brussels, EU officials said on Wednesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
© AFP / Scanpix

"Following contacts of High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini with Member States, the High Representative/Vice-President decided to invite Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for an informal exchange of views with Ministers in the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, 11 December 2017, in Brussels," an EU spokesperson told BNS.

"The informal exchange of views will be the opportunity for Ministers and the Prime Minister to discuss together the state of play and perspectives of the Middle East Peace Process, bilateral relations and regional issues of common interest," the spokesperson said.

"Preparation is now ongoing. A similar invitation has been extended to President Abbas for such an exchange of views at the earliest available opportunity," he added.

Rasa Jakilaitienė, spokeswoman for the Lithuanian foreign minister, told BNS earlier this week that the meeting between EU foreign ministers and Netanyahu had been initiated by Lithuanian.

Lithuania has in the past decade become one of the strongest diplomatic supporters of Israel in the EU. Many other European countries take a tougher stance toward Israel over the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius says that direct dialogue is necessary to resolve differences.

"We are seeking an EU-wide dialogue on issues that are important to the bloc and Israel. Direct dialog is of paramount importance. We can seek to bring positions, which are sometimes far apart from each other, closer only if we listen to arguments put forward in a discussion," Linkevičius said in a comment to BNS.

"We have been discussing the possibility of arranging such a meeting for a long time now," he added.

Observers say that Vilnius' pro- Israeli policy could be partly due to coordination of diplomatic positions with the United States and to the history of Lithuanian Jews. Also, Lithuania and Israel have recently stepped up their bilateral military and economic relations.

The Jerusalem Post has reported that it will be the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to the EU headquarters in Brussels in more than two decades.

BNS
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