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Israel, EU reconcile, agree to hold summit after Cohen-Borrell meeting

In a surprising move, Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell agreed in Brussels to hold an association council meeting by the end of 2023. Israel is also advocating for more EU sanctions on Iran.
Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen and EU high commissioner for foreign affairs josep Borrell , Brussels, may 2 2023

BRUSSELS — At a meeting on Tuesday in Brussels, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell agreed to open a new page in Israel-EU relations and hold an Israel-EU association meeting by the end of the year, with Jerusalem being considered as the host.

The meeting between Cohen and Borrell took place one month after a most difficult phone conversation between the two, qualified by an Israeli senior diplomatic source as a "blowup." The difficult phone call took place on March 16 when the Times of Israel cited an unnamed diplomatic source who claimed that Israel had signaled to the EU that Borrell was not welcome in Israel. 

Borrell had indicated his desire to visit Israel, but after he published an article criticizing the policies of the Netanyahu government vis-a-vis the Palestinians, the Foreign Ministry made it clear he was not welcome. 

Cohen and Borrell met in Brussels for over an hour in what the diplomatic source called a "dramatic and surprising" meeting. The Israeli Foreign Ministry was expecting a tense meeting between the two men. The last association council meeting — the legal framework for the relations between Israel and the EU — took place last year when Yair Lapid served as foreign minister in the former Bennett government, the first meeting in a decade. The association council meeting usually includes meetings of 10 different committees that discuss relations and joint projects. These meetings enable the two sides to expand and deepen relations. Over the years, as the EU and Israel sparred over Israel's settlement policies, these meetings did not take place. 

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