The Middle East Peace Process, as an active political search for an agreement, has been effectively stalled for some time. It is many years since negotiations have taken place, and international pressure has not been strong enough to press the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships back to the negotiating table.
It is in that context that the interest of the Trump Administration in brokering an agreement between the two sides has been closely watched. The US team has been actively engaged for almost a year in meeting both sides and formulating ideas for a framework for a settlement. This is believed to be at an advanced stage, but the time to launch the effort remains to be determined. It may be in the next few months, but it could take longer, if the US team determines that more groundwork could help to develop, or to prepare the context for, their proposals. I have expressed regret at the US opening of an Embassy in Jerusalem yesterday, which, in my view, makes efforts to rally all sides around a new peace initiative significantly more difficult.
The Middle East Peace Process has been a priority for me since taking office, and the recent tragic events in Gaza have only confirmed its importance for me. I have visited the region twice in the last year, and hope to be there again shortly. I have also been very conscious, and seen for myself, the negative trends which are acting daily to make an agreement more difficult.
I have also argued strongly at EU level that the EU needs to engage with the US, to encourage their work and offer what help we can, but also to impress on them that their plan must address the aspirations and needs of both sides, and the key parameters for a settlement which the EU has consistently advocated. I have done this myself in continued direct contacts with the US team.
I have further argued that the EU must also, in parallel, strengthen its own work on the ground to defend the political space for a two state solution, especially by combatting the ongoing settlement programme which is gravely threatening it.
Finally, since my first visit last June I have been exploring and working on practical projects which might help to change the dynamic in Gaza, and to improve conditions for people there. This work is made more urgent still by the appalling loss of life in Gaza yesterday and over recent weeks.
These will be key elements of my continuing engagement on the Middle East Peace Process.