Delegations from the European Union member states and Middle Eastern and north African countries are meeting Monday in Barcelona, Spain, to discuss the crisis in Gaza where a fragile pause in fighting is set to expire.
Forty-two delegations are scheduled to gather at the event hosted by the Union for the Mediterranean, with many represented by their foreign ministers. The meeting is chaired by the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.
Israel is not attending the meeting, which in past years has largely become a forum for cooperation between the EU and the Arab world. Monday’s gathering was supposed to focus on the role of the union 15 years after its founding, but the meeting has taken on new significance since the Oct. 7 militant attack on Israel and Israel’s ensuing war in the Gaza Strip.
Jordan’s Safadi told The Associated Press on the eve of the event that he hopes the talks will help “bridge a gap” between Arab and European countries in calling for a humanitarian pause in Gaza to become a permanent cease-fire.
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud has also been invited to the event.
A small pro-Palestinian group rallied before the gathering at the art nouveau building that once housed Barcelona’s Sant Pau Hospital.
The pause in hostilities between Israel and Hamas continued Sunday with a third straight day of hostages and Palestinian prisoners released. It was originally scheduled for four days and neither side has made fully clear what comes after Monday.
Spain has been one of the EU countries to call for Israel to cease its offensive, while also condemning the Hamas attack. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the time had come for the international community and the EU to once and for all recognize a Palestinian state during a trip along with his Belgian counterpart to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt last week. That prompted Israel to recall its ambassadors to Spain and Belgium.
The Union for the Mediterranean is an intergovernmental organization formed by the 27 members of the EU and 16 of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, including Israel, Palestine — represented by the Palestinian Authority and identified as Palestine — Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan.
The EU is the world’s biggest provider of assistance to the Palestinians. Almost 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) have been earmarked for 2021-2024.