EU delegates to clarify Israel settler guidelines

A delegation from the European Union is expected in Jerusalem on Tuesday to clarify the EU's position on Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, an Israeli official said.

EU guidelines published in July banned European funding for and financial dealing with settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem starting from January 2014.

"Israeli diplomatic efforts and pressure by US Secretary of State John Kerry have convinced the EU of the necessity to clarify how it intends to apply its guidelines," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"The current wording of the guidelines encourages an extremist interpretation which does not allow Israel to enter partnerships with Europe," the official railed.

The guidelines have angered Israeli officials, because Israel would have to recognise in writing that the settlements are not part of the Jewish state proper in any future agreements signed with the EU.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday's meeting would "prepare the terrain for negotiations between Israel and the EU over the Horizon 2020 partnership which are due to take place on Thursday in Brussels."

Israel warned on August 14 that it might shun Horizon 2020, a six-year EU funding plan for research and innovation that the Jewish state was slated to participate in.

But the Palestinians, who welcomed the EU's guidelines, said on Monday the United States was putting pressure on the EU to delay the guidelines' implementation so as to appease Israel.

"My information is that Mr Kerry is trying to persuade the Europeans to delay the implementation of their new guidelines," senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said.

"The Europeans encouraged us (to enter US-brokered talks)... by publishing, before our decision, their new directions against settlement activities, and encouraged us by doing so," he said.

Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law, and Israel angered Palestinian negotiators ahead of bilateral talks last month when it announced plans to build more than 2,000 settler homes on Palestinian territory.

The last round of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in 2010 broke down over the issue of settlement building.