EU urges US to join new Mideast peace effort

European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell speaks during a media conference after a meeting of EU foreign ministers by videoconference at the European Council building in Brussels on June 15, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2020

EU urges US to join new Mideast peace effort

  • Josep Borrell said the Europeans want peace talks to resume
  • He insisted that any new initiative must respect the “internationally agreed parameters”

BRUSSELS: European Union foreign ministers on Monday urged the United States to join a new effort to breathe life into long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but they rejected President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan as the basis for any international process.
Trump’s proposal, which was unveiled in January, would foresee the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, but it falls far short of minimal Palestinian demands and would leave sizable chunks of the occupied West Bank in Israeli hands.
Speaking after chairing video talks between the ministers and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the Europeans “recognize the merit of the US plan because it has created a certain momentum where there was nothing.”
“This momentum can be used to start a joint international effort of the basis of existing internationally agreed parameters,” Borrell said, referring to the need for a two-state solution, based along the 1967 lines, with the possibility of mutually agreed land-swaps.
“We made clear that it is important to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to engage in a credible and meaningful political process,” Borrell said. “For us, there is no other way than to resume talks.” But he insisted that any new initiative must respect the “internationally agreed parameters.”
Trump’s plan was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed it as “nonsense.” Gulf Arab states also rejected the White House plan as “biased.” While Israeli officials were present for its unveiling, no Palestinian representatives attended.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also insisted on the need “to revive the peace process in the region and find a way for both sides to speak and negotiate with each other.”
“A multilateral format could certainly be the right framework for this, and we are prepared to support any initiative in this direction — and I would be glad if our colleague from Washington also were prepared to do this,” Maas said. No details of what the new effort might look like were provided.
Netanyahu has said that he wants to move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, perhaps in early July, and Borrell said the ministers warned Pompeo about “the consequences of a possible annexation for the prospects of a two-state solution but also for regional stability.”
In recent months, the 27-nation bloc has debated whether to modify its Middle East policy amid growing concern that settlement activity and US diplomatic moves, like the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, are undermining the chances of a two-state solution.
But while the EU is the biggest provider of aid to the Palestinians, the member countries have little obvious leverage over Israel that they would be prepared to use, and it’s unclear what action, if any, they would take should Netanyahu push ahead with his annexation plan.


Having flu doubles risk of coronavirus death: Study

Updated 22 September 2020

Having flu doubles risk of coronavirus death: Study

  • Heightened danger particularly acute among over-65s
  • WHO identifies flu season as acute threat given COVID-19 spikes

LONDON: Infection with flu and coronavirus at the same time more than doubles a person’s risk of dying than if he or she only had COVID-19, according to research released by England’s highest public health body.

Research conducted by Public Health England (PHE) found that those with flu and COVID-19 were 2.27 times more likely to die than those who just had COVID-19, and 5.92 times more likely to die than those who had neither.

Researchers found that those aged 65 and over were at greatest risk. Most cases of co-infection were in older people, and more than half of them died.

The paper describes the possible impact of COVID-19 alongside seasonal flu as a “major concern.”

Yvonne Doyle, medical director of PHE, said: “If you get both you’re in some serious trouble, and the people who are most likely to get both of these infections may be the very people who can least afford to in terms of their own immune system, or their risk for serious outcomes.”

The paper found that people with flu were less likely to test positive for COVID-19, but Doyle said this should not be taken as a reassurance.

Some countries in Asia have pre-emptively rolled out early and more aggressive flu vaccination programs this year to prevent complications caused by co-infection.

But others, such as Poland, have been struggling to secure flu vaccines due to shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The upcoming flu season has been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a particularly acute threat, given that many parts of the world are already experiencing a spike in COVID-19 infections.

“We’re starting to see worrying trends in some countries,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for COVID-19. “We’re seeing increases in hospitalizations, in intensive care units … That’s worrying because we haven’t seen the flu season yet.”