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EU, Israel hold high-level talks for first time in a decade

Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank is now in its 55th year. The last real peace talks ended in 2009.

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union and Israel on Monday held high-level talks for the first time in a decade, with the Europeans keen to press Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on how to put a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians into place.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell welcomed the recent support from Lapid — who took part in Monday’s talks by videoconference — for an end to the conflict based on an Israeli and Palestinian state living peacefully side by side.

“This is also what we want to push for. We want the resumption of a political process that can lead to a two-state solution and a comprehensive regional peace,” Borrell said. “We have to explore how we can put this into practice.”

“It’s better to sit and discuss frankly, than to avoid any contact. Certainly we disagree. Certainly we express concern, but I think it’s more positive to sit and discuss,” Borrell told reporters in Brussels. It's the first time the two sides have held an “Association Council” since July 2012.

However, there is no short-term prospect for peace.

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Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank is now in its 55th year. The last real peace talks ended in 2009, and critics say growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank and elsewhere undermine any hopes for a two-state solution. The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank along with Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, for a future state.

At the U.N. General Assembly last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that “our confidence in achieving a peace based on justice and international law is waning, due to the Israeli occupation policies.”

Speaking a day after Lapid, Abbas delivered a pessimistic assessment of diplomacy, saying a “frantic campaign to confiscate our lands” persisted in the generations-long dispute, while the military “are killing the Palestinian people in broad daylight” with impunity.

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