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Israel may seek extradition of Palestinian militants

may seek the extradition of 13 Palestinian militants exiled to Europe in an -brokered deal once their initial year-long period of asylum expires, according to high-level Israeli diplomatic sources.

The Palestinian militants were granted asylum as part of the agreement to end the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. and Italy are taking three men each, and Ireland two each and Portugal and one apiece. One remains in Larnaca.

However, their stay in the EU could be relatively short-lived, as a senior diplomat in Brussels confirmed last night (22 May): “After the year is up, Israel may decide to seek their extradition,” he said.

His statement contradicted earlier assurances given by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana that Israel would make no such request. The diplomat pointed out that, although Israel would honour the deal for the time being, any future government may not feel bound by a deal Israel regards as a temporary measure. “In 12 months from now the situation will be different in Israel. There will probably be a new government with a new approach,” he said.

His comment was an apparent reference to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's struggle to keep his crumbling coalition together and stave off an ultra-right-wing offensive within his own party led by arch-hawk Binyamin Netanyahu.

The Palestinians see the Church of the Nativity deal as permanently excluding any possibility of a transfer of the 13 men to Israel. ”Israel may someday ask for their extradition, but the important thing is the European reaction. I expect the EU will reject such a request,” said Chawki Armali, the Palestinian Authority's representative in Brussels.

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Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Piqué yesterday denied that the two weeks of negotiations among EU states to decide who would take in the Palestinian militants had revealed divisions within Europe over policy.

However, when he was asked during an interview for Spain's Antena 3 station whether big member states, such as France and Germany, had ducked their responsibilities by refusing to accept any of the men, Piqué admitted: “I must express my disappointment that certain countries often say we must do more to resolve the , but when the time comes to take difficult decisions they do not take them.”

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This article appeared in the 23 May 2002 issue of European Voice.

Author

  • Khaled Diab

    Khaled Diab is an award-winning journalist, blogger and writer who has been based in Tunis, , Brussels, Geneva and Cairo. Khaled also gives talks and is regularly interviewed by the print and audiovisual media. Khaled Diab is the author of two books: Islam for the Politically Incorrect (2017) and Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land (2014). In 2014, the Anna Lindh Foundation awarded Khaled its Journalist Award in the press category. This website, The Chronikler, won the 2012 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) for the best English-language blog. Khaled was longlisted for the Orwell journalism prize in 2020. In addition, Khaled works as communications director for an environmental NGO based in Brussels. He has also worked as a communications consultant to intergovernmental organisations, such as the EU and the UN, as well as civil society. Khaled lives with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Katleen, who works in humanitarian aid. The foursome is completed by Iskander, their smart, creative and artistic son, and Sky, their mischievous and footballing cat. Egyptian by birth, Khaled's life has been divided between the Middle East and Europe. He grew up in and the UK, and has lived in Belgium, on and off, since 2001. He holds dual Egyptian-Belgian nationality.

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Khaled Diab

Khaled Diab is an award-winning journalist, blogger and writer who has been based in Tunis, Jerusalem, Brussels, Geneva and Cairo. Khaled also gives talks and is regularly interviewed by the print and audiovisual media. Khaled Diab is the author of two books: Islam for the Politically Incorrect (2017) and Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land (2014). In 2014, the Anna Lindh Foundation awarded Khaled its Mediterranean Journalist Award in the press category. This website, The Chronikler, won the 2012 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) for the best English-language blog. Khaled was longlisted for the Orwell journalism prize in 2020. In addition, Khaled works as communications director for an environmental NGO based in Brussels. He has also worked as a communications consultant to intergovernmental organisations, such as the EU and the UN, as well as civil society. Khaled lives with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Katleen, who works in humanitarian aid. The foursome is completed by Iskander, their smart, creative and artistic son, and Sky, their mischievous and footballing cat. Egyptian by birth, Khaled’s life has been divided between the Middle East and Europe. He grew up in Egypt and the UK, and has lived in Belgium, on and off, since 2001. He holds dual Egyptian-Belgian nationality.

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