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Israeli Foreign Ministry Boycotted EU’s Middle East Envoy During Recent Visit: Report

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Sven Koopmans, the EU’s Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process. Photo: Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry boycotted the European Union’s envoy to the Middle East during his recent visit to Israel, Israeli news site Walla revealed on Wednesday.

According to the report, Sven Koopmans — the EU’s Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process — contacted Israeli ambassador to the EU Aharon Leshno-Yaar about two weeks ago seeking a visit to the Jewish state, and was informed by the Foreign Ministry that it preferred a visit at a later date.

Koopmans, however, decided to visit regardless. When the ministry was informed, it was decided that no Israeli official would meet with the envoy. In response, Koopmans apparently sought to meet with Defense Ministry officials, but was again rebuffed.

In the end, Koopmans did travel to the region, where he visited the city of Ashkelon and met with families whose homes had been hit by rockets during Operation Guardian of the Walls last month.

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He also visited the Gaza Strip and Ramallah, where he met with Palestinian officials.

A senior Israeli source stated that the reason for snubbing Koopmans was due to the behavior of the EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, during Guardian of the Walls.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry believed that Borrell did not condemn Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians strongly enough, and there was reportedly a contentious confrontation between Borrell and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi during the operation.

In addition, Borrell’s call for an immediate ceasefire outraged Israel due to the high representative’s claim that only one of the 27 EU member states opposed doing so. Israel believes this claim was untrue.

The EU stated otherwise and asserted that Borrell had adequately condemned the rocket attacks. It added that Koopmans had a “mandate” from all member states to visit Israel for talks with government officials.

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