April 16, 2015 / 8:34 PM / 2 years ago

Ministers urge EU to go ahead with labeling Jewish settlement goods

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Sixteen European Union foreign ministers have urged EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to press ahead with EU-wide rules requiring goods made in Jewish settlements to be labeled as such, diplomats said on Thursday.

Some EU countries already issue guidance to shops so consumers can see if goods are made in settlements -- occupied land that the Palestinians want for a future state -- rather than within Israel's recognized borders.

Israel rejects the EU stance that the settlements are illegal and opposes special labels.

The EU has been discussing the labels for several years but put the issue on hold in 2013 so as not to disturb U.S. efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The letter, from 16 of the EU's 28 capitals, including Britain and France, comes as some EU governments have been losing patience with Israel over continued settlement-building, the breakdown of peace efforts and Benjamin Netanyahu's comments before last month's election ruling out a Palestinian state as long as he remains prime minister.

The letter, published by Israeli newspaper Haaretz on its website, said: "The continued expansion of Israeli illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, and other territories occupied by Israel since 1967, threatens the prospect of a just and final peace agreement.

"Moreover, the correct and coherent implementation of EU consumer protection and EU labeling legislation is necessary to ensure that consumers are not being misled by false information."

Mogherini, speaking to reporters in the Netherlands, confirmed she had received the letter and that she had already discussed the issue with some of the ministers that signed it.

The ministers said the labeling would be "an important step in the full implementation of EU longstanding policy, in relation to the preservation of the two-state solution."

Signatories of the letter included Britain, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden, but Germany was notably absent, reflecting divisions within the EU on policy toward Israel.

A spokesman for Israeli's Foreign Ministry said the ministry did not comment on internal EU correspondence.

Reporting by Adrian Croft; Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem and by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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