EU nears decision on labeling products from Israeli settlements

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 05, 2015 9:40 AM

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - The European Union will soon decide on labeling rules to inform consumers if imported Israeli products come from Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, the EU's top diplomat said on Saturday.

Some EU countries, including Britain, already issue guidance to shops so consumers can see if goods are made in the settlements that most countries consider illegal, rather than within Israel's recognized borders.

The European Commission has to decide how to extend these guidelines to all the 28 countries of the bloc.

"The work is close to being finished but it is still ongoing," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

The EU has been debating the labels for several years but has never put in place any measure, wary of upsetting attempts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

At the end of September, the Middle East Quartet - the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia - will meet in New York together with Arab countries to seek ways to revive peace talks.

Despite this diplomatic push, EU states are growing impatient over Israel's continued settlement-building. In April, 16 EU countries sent a letter urging Mogherini to speed up the EU labeling decision.

"We have to make sure that consumers can distinguish products that come from territories occupied by Israel," said Jean Asselborn, foreign minister of Luxembourg which holds the six-month presidency of the EU.

"We are just applying international rules," he told a news conference, adding that he expected a solution by the end of the year.

Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in a 1967 war. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but is expanding settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Robin Emmott; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)