The newly released US Middle East peace plan departs from internationally agreed parameters concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said the four EU members of the UN Security Council -- Belgium, Estonia, France and Germany -- plus Poland, which has just left the council.
"In line with the long-standing EU position, we remain committed to a negotiated two-state solution, based on 1967 lines, with equivalent land swaps, as may be agreed between the parties, with the state of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable state of Palestine, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition," said a joint statement of the five countries.
"The US initiative, as presented on Jan. 28, departs from these internationally agreed parameters."
The U.S. plan, contrary to UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital." The US plan was immediately rejected by Palestine and the Arab world.
The five EU countries on Tuesday reaffirmed their readiness to work toward the resumption of direct negotiations between the two parties to resolve all final-status issues, including issues related to borders, the status of Jerusalem, security and the refugee question, with the aim of building a just and lasting peace, said the joint statement, which was read out to reporters by Belgian Foreign and Defense Minister Philippe Goffin, who was flanked by representatives of the other four countries.
"We call on both sides to exercise restraint and abstain from any unilateral actions contrary to international law and to re-engage in negotiations. We condemn all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as acts of provocation, incitement and destruction," said the statement.
"We reaffirm our concern about Israel's settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, which is illegal under international law and constitutes an obstacle to peace and a two-state solution. We are also deeply concerned about potential steps toward annexation after repeated calls for a possible annexation of areas in the West Bank. The annexation of any part of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, constitutes a breach of international law, undermines the viability of the two-state solution and challenges the prospects for just, comprehensive and lasting peace. In line with international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, we do not recognize Israel's sovereignty over the territories occupied since 1967."
The five EU countries said they will continue to engage with the parties and relevant stakeholders to revive a political process in line with international law, which ensures equal rights and which is acceptable to both parties.
They also reiterated their commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to current and emerging threats in the region.
The joint statement was released ahead of a Security Council meeting on the US Middle East peace plan.
Ferocious winds, with gusts over 200 kph (125 mph), lashed Corsica and whipped up a forest fire that flared overnight on the French Mediterranean island on Tuesday, after a storm with hurricane-force winds and heavy rains battered northern Europe for days, killing at least eight people and causing severe travel disruptions.
More than 300 fire officers were involved in fighting the blazes and two ports were closed and flights suspended on Corsica. Power was cut to 2000 homes.
The storm also continued to batter other parts of Europe. Fallen trees blocked roads and train tracks in southern Germany and Austria.
The Austrian city of Salzburg near the German border was hit by the storm Tuesday. Public broadcaster ORF reported that more than 400 firefighters worked for hours to remove downed trees from crushed cars and roads. They also had to remove a huge metal roof that was blown off a building. No one was injured, ORF reported.
German railroad operator Deutsche Bahn, which had shut down all long-distance trains on Monday, said most of its service resumed Tuesday with the exception of some trains in southern regions that were still being battered by gusty winds. Schools across Germany reopened.
Deaths due to the fierce storm were reported in Poland, Sweden, Britain, Slovenia, Germany and the Czech Republic. On Tuesday, Polish officials reported a third storm-related death in the country, saying a relative of two people killed Monday when the roof of the ski rental building collapsed also died.
In northern Bavaria, where a gust of over 160 kph (100 mph) was recorded, the storm produced a record amount of electricity being fed into the German grid from wind turbines, equivalent to almost 44 nuclear power plants.
The German Weather Service said strong winds would keep blasting much of the country on Tuesday but the brunt of the storm had moved to the southeast. In northeastern Germany, a new storm was expected to reach the Baltic coast. The German Weather Service also forecast heavy rains for most of the country as well as for France and Belgium.
In England and Scotland, the Met Office national weather agency still had 85 flood warnings in force as torrential rains caused numerous rivers to overflow their banks.
Further north, in Norway, water from the North Sea overflowed harbors and entered houses along the country's southern coast, causing damage but no victims. Local airline Wideroe canceled 21 departures because low pressure over northern Norway meant its small planes couldn't fly, the Norwegian news agency NTB reported. The low pressure was affecting the altitude gauges on the planes with no possibility to adjust for the low pressure.
In the Czech Republic, more than 40,000 households remained without electricity Tuesday morning, down from some 300,000 on Monday afternoon. Around 20 train routes were still blocked because of fallen trees on the track. Only one flight from Amsterdam was canceled Tuesday, Prague's international airport said.
A high-speed passenger train derailed in northern Italy before dawn on Thursday on the heavily used Milan-Bologna line, with the motor car completely detaching and slamming into a railroad building, killing two railway workers and injuring 27 people, authorities said.
The state-railway Freccia Rossa train went off the rails while traveling at nearly 300 kph (180 mph), Civil Protection chief Angelo Borrelli told state radio.
Authorities said the train engineer and another train employee, apparently also an engineer, were killed in the crash, which occurred about 5:30 a.m. (0430 GMT) in the countryside outside the town of Lodi.
"The engine car car derailed, detached completely and kept going,'' Girolamo Fabiano, a railroad police official told state radio. "Then the second car derailed."
The second car was believed to be a business class passenger car. The rest of the cars remained upright.
Given the early hour, the train was uncrowded, with only about 30 people in all aboard, police said.
Fabiano said that work had been done on that stretch of line during the night. He said the cause of the crash, which was under investigation, was unclear.
Borrelli said the high-speed state railways train had departed from Milan at 5:10 a.m. (0410 GMT) and was headed south to Bologna when it derailed. Borrelli said two of the injured were in serious condition, while the other 25 were less seriously injured.
The passenger train run is part of a popular high-speed rail service known as Freccia Rossa, or the Red Arrow service. Its southern destination was supposed to be Salerno, a port city south of Naples.
Rail traffic was diverted to local tracks, with delays of about an hour reported.
The speaker of the Polish Sejm (lower house) announced on Wednesday that the first round of presidential elections in Poland will take place on May 10, and if a second round is needed, it will happen on May 24.
An opinion poll by research firm IBRiS, reported by Polish media, showed that incumbent President Andrzej Duda would have the biggest chance of winning the elections.
According to the poll, 42 percent of respondents said they would vote for Duda, compared to 26 percent for Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, the candidate of the Civic Coalition, the largest opposition force. All other candidates who announced their participation in the first round of presidential elections could have below 10 percent of votes.
The numbers indicate that Duda would even have a chance of winning from the first round. If he couldn't, most of the opposition candidates would be likely to back Kidawa-Blonska in the second round, making it a tight race.
According to the poll, around 58 percent of Poles would be planning to take part in the elections and about 8 percent are still undecided.
The European Union on Tuesday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's proposal for securing peace in the Middle East and expressed concern about Israel's plans to annex more Palestinian land.
Trump's plan, which was unveiled last week, would foresee the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, but it falls far short of minimal Palestinian demands and would leave sizable chunks of the occupied West Bank in Israeli hands.
In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell underlined the bloc's commitment to a two-state solution, based along the 1967 lines, with the possibility of mutually agreed land-swaps, made up of the state of Israel and "an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable state of Palestine."
Borrell said the U.S. initiative "departs from these internationally agreed parameters."
"To build a just and lasting peace, the unresolved final status issues must be decided through direct negotiations between both parties," Borrell said. "This includes notably the issues related to borders, the status of Jerusalem, security and the refugee question,"
Trump's plan was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed it as "nonsense." Gulf Arab states also rejected the White House plan as "biased." While Israeli officials were present for its unveiling, no Palestinian representatives attended.
Netanyahu has said he wants to move forward with plans to annex West Bank territory.
"We are especially concerned by statements on the prospect of annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank," Borrell said.
He suggested that the EU might consider legal action by saying that any "steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged."
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war — for an independent state and the removal of more than 700,000 Israeli settlers from these areas.
But the plan sides heavily with Netanyahu's hard-line nationalist vision for the region and shunts aside many of the Palestinians' core demands.
In Israel, foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said it was "regrettable" that Borrell was using "threatening language" toward the country so soon after taking up his post and so shortly after meeting with leaders in Iran.
"Pursuing such policies & conduct is the best way to ensure that the EU's role in any process will be minimized," Haiat said in a tweet.
EU foreign ministers have discussed in recent months whether the bloc should modify its Middle East policy amid growing concern that settlement activity and U.S. diplomatic moves like the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, are undermining the chances of a two-state solution.
Ireland and Luxembourg are among a small group of countries that support a change of position but no heavyweight member country is backing them.
In a letter to Borrell, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn wrote that hopes for a two-state solution are "being dismantled piece by piece, day after day," and that it is time to consider recognizing Palestine as a state.
Borrell has noted that member countries are "very much divided" over how to handle Middle East peace moves. In Tuesday's statement, he also underlined the EU's "fundamental commitment to the security of Israel."