Palestine Recognition Not ‘Goal in Itself,’ EU’s Mogherini Says

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini cast doubt on the movement to recognize Palestine as a state, asking whether the gesture would promote a Middle East peace settlement.

Sweden offered diplomatic recognition last month and the U.K. and Spanish parliaments and Irish senate delivered non-binding endorsements, reflecting frustration with the sputtering Israel-Palestine peace process.

“The recognition of the state and even the negotiations are not a goal in itself, the goal in itself is having a Palestinian state in place and having Israel living next to it,” Mogherini told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, today.

As the largest donors to the Palestinian cause, EU governments are casting about for ways to restart talks over a two-state solution after a nine-month U.S.-mediated effort broke down in April.

Sweden became the ninth EU country to bestow recognition on Palestine, according to the Palestinian Authority. Several eastern European governments granted the status in the 1980s when they were part of the Soviet bloc. France’s parliament holds a symbolic vote on recognition on Nov. 28, and Denmark’s lawmakers will debate a motion in December.

‘Empty Gestures’

Israel has denounced the campaign. “Empty gestures” would lessen the Palestinian will to make compromises needed for peace, Benny Dagan, deputy head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s policy research center, said at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels this week.

Mogherini said she has no answer for “the right steps to do and in which order.” She favored involving Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Arab League in a regional initiative that recycles elements of a failed Arab plan from 2002.

In office since Nov. 1, Mogherini, a former Italian foreign minister, hinted at a more prominent European role in the Middle East peace effort. “We can be the first political player in the region to facilitate a dialogue,” she said.

Mogherini spoke as EU Parliament members aired the differences that led them to postpone a vote on a Palestinian recognition resolution until next month. The vote won’t be binding on the EU’s central authorities or national governments.

Today’s debate showed that “our frustration and even our sense of desperation is deep and that we risk to be trapped in the false illusion of us needing to take one side,” Mogherini said. “We could not make a worse mistake than this.”