EU Mideast envoy: Two-state solution ‘only viable option’ to end Palestinian conflict with Israel

Susanna Terstal, EU special representative for the Middle East peace process
Updated 31 October 2019

EU Mideast envoy: Two-state solution ‘only viable option’ to end Palestinian conflict with Israel

  • The humanitarian situation in Gaza is a big concern to the EU, says Middle East envoy

RIYADH: The EU’s special representative for the Middle East peace process on Tuesday expressed her “optimism” for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but admitted a two-state solution was the only viable option.

Speaking to Arab News, Susanna Terstal said she was confident that the international community would ultimately find a way for Israelis and Palestinians to become “good neighbors.”

During a visit to Riyadh, where she held meetings with senior Saudi officials, the diplomat said: “As special representative, I get a mandate from the member states to contribute to actions and initiatives leading to a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I work directly with all the member states and with high representative Federica Mogherini, maintaining close contact with all parties to the peace process.

“For the EU, international parameters are paramount. Like the League of Arab States (Arab League), we support a two-state solution, based on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as a shared capital and a just solution for the refugee problem,” she added.

Terstal noted that her three-day trip to Saudi Arabia, followed by talks in the UAE, was aimed at finding ways to work with Arab states on achieving their common goals.

On current progress of the peace process, she said: “I am an optimist, I always say and I believe at a certain point as an international community there will be a solution to the conflict, and Israelis and Palestinians will manage to find a solution and live in peace and security as good neighbors.

“That is our goal, of course, but what we see at the moment is that the situation on the ground is deteriorating: West Bank and Gaza are split; and the settlements are growing.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is also a big concern to the EU. People in Gaza often do not have clean drinking water or electricity and the health situation is critical. We at the EU strive to alleviate those problems. Like Saudi Arabia, the EU is one of the biggest donors to the Palestinians,” Terstal added.

“With the EU and its member states in the past 15 years, we have spent €10 billion (SR41.6 billion). We spend that money for making the two-state solution possible. We do this to empower the Palestinian Authority, invest in rule of law, but also making sure the people can have a decent life. That’s why we also do projects in Gaza and are working on a large desalination plant there, with EU and Arab funding.

“But the ultimate goal is always a Palestinian state, in the framework of a two-state solution,” she said.

Terstal travels to Israel and Palestine every six weeks and frequently visits other countries in the region such as Jordan and Egypt. Part of her job is to liaise with European capitals to ensure they are all on the same page in terms of their approach to the Middle East peace process.

“We say that Jerusalem is the capital of both states and that Israel and the Palestinians should agree on a solution for the city through negotiations. It is also an important issue of course for the international community, because Jerusalem is the home of holy sites for Muslims, Jews and Christians and should be accessible to all.”

Asked about the shrinking Palestinian territory and expansionist policy of Israel, she said: “The UN Security Council resolutions are very clear on this and we believe that we should really fight for achieving two states. We realize it’s getting harder and harder with the passing of time and the expansion of settlements.

“But to us, the two-state solution remains the most viable option. And I think it is the same position here and that is what we are working for.”

During her visit to the Kingdom, Terstal held talks with various Saudi officials including Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, General Supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, and Secretary-General of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies Dr. Saud Al-Sarhan.

She noted the extensive aid work of KSRelief to help the Palestinians.

“We had very good discussions on how we can cooperate in the future. There are a lot of possibilities for peace, and it was very important for me to understand how the leaders in the Kingdom are looking at the conflict,” she added.


Lockdowns fueling rise of sexual extortion crimes in Lebanon

Updated 50 min 25 sec ago

Lockdowns fueling rise of sexual extortion crimes in Lebanon

  • These crimes increased during the presence of people in (their) homes as a result of quarantine due to the outbreak of coronavirus and people, old and young, resorted to social media

BEIRUT: Coronavirus lockdowns are fueling an increase in sexual extortion crimes in Lebanon, according to a security official.

Figures from the Lebanese Internal Security Forces showed that such crimes had risen significantly in recent months. Authorities received 47 complaints during July and 96 in August. The number of people arrested for these crimes this year has reached 133.

The security official, from the Public Relations Division at the General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces, said the victims of this type of extortion were aged between 11 and 60, and the percentage of female victims was greater than the percentage of male ones.

“Such incidents are repeated daily, and the perpetrators may be Lebanese or non-Lebanese,” the official told Arab News. 

“These crimes increased during the presence of people in (their) homes as a result of quarantine due to the outbreak of coronavirus and people, old and young, resorted to social media.”

Despite information warning people against taking inappropriate photos and videos and under any pressure exerted on them, the official said, sexual extortion crimes were repeated because fraud took many forms.

“Perpetrators show their victims a measure of love and care that makes the victims believe them and feel secure with them,” the official explained. 

“It does not usually take long to convince male victims, while female victims usually look for someone who gives them great emotion to trust him, which takes longer. Usually, the female victims may be girls who suffer from difficult social conditions, and the start of the process of their extortion may take longer than with the male victims.”

Most of the perpetrators in sexual extortion operations had a prior history of such activity and were involved in fraud because it was lucrative, the official added.

The latest crime recorded by the Office of Combating Information Crimes and Protection of Intellectual Property in the Judicial Police Unit revealed that a Lebanese national was threatened with the publication of intimate photographs by someone she had met through Facebook.

A romantic relationship began between the two and she had sent him private photos and videos. He started threatening to upload these unless she sent him money, cell phone recharge cards, and new intimate images and videos of her. He also contacted and threatened one of her relatives, who capitulated and sent him more than 20 recharge cards and sums of money.

Brig. Fadl Daher, a specialist in criminology and punishment and professor of criminal social studies, said there were three basic reasons for people committing this type of crime. 

“The financial motive is the basis for crimes against money. These crimes resort, in most cases, to defamation, and they become more common when the surveillance and prosecution are reduced, and the perpetrator believes that he would not be held accountable,” he explained. 

“In the time of coronavirus, the family returned home but ... every person in the house resorted to social media so no one knows what the other is doing within the same house.”

Daher said that poverty and need made people resort to all available means to obtain financial returns, and that extortion through social media may be one of those methods as the difficulty of arresting people who used social media to commit their crimes was four times higher than arresting those who committed their crimes in the street.

“The danger of these crimes is that they may target children and minors,” he added. 

“The lack of a social safety net through leniency in uncovering these crimes or talking about them led us in the past not to raise any talk about taboos to address them, and launching any campaign to break the silence now by asking victims to call the hotline is not helpful. An integrated mechanism of psychological, judicial and social treatment is required.”