EU says Israel settlements stand 'not a new approach'

The EU's executive on Tuesday denied any change in policy towards Israel after the adoption of guidelines confirming that the occupied territories will be excluded from cooperation agreements with the bloc.

"It's not a new approach," said Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The guidelines due to be published in the EU's Official Journal at the end of the week "will bring clarity into this sytem", she said at a news briefing.

They "will allow Israel and the EU to hold discussions about bilateral agreements which are currently in preparation," she added.

The guidelines adopted June 30 limit "the application of agreements with Israel to the territory of Israel as recognised by the EU," which means prior to the June 1967 occupation by Israel of the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

They "are applicable to all grants, prizes, and financial instruments funded by the European Union from 2014 onwards," Kocijancic said. "We are talking about EU programmes from the EU budget."

The move has raised a storm in Israel, with officials denouncing a decision that will bar funding projects connected to Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.