Paris, 26 June-2014(AFP): France has warned its citizens against taking part in any economic activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, saying this may entail legal risks because the Jewish settlements are illegal under international law.Israel occupied and then annexed the West Bank and East al-Quds in the Six-Day War of 1967, but the move has never been recognized by the international community.
Jewish settlement of Brukhim located near the West Bank village of Kufr al-Deek near Salfit (Reuters/Abed Omar Qusini)
The warning is part of a joint act drafted by the five largest EU countries: Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Spain, Haaretz cited a French diplomat as saying.
Italy and Spain are expected to issue similar warnings over the next few days, while the UK and Germany did so a few months ago.
The move comes after the failure of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and also following massive protests against the construction of settlements across the EU.
The notice by the French Foreign Ministry advises against investing, purchasing land, or engaging in economic activity in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights. It was published as part of recommendations for French people traveling to Israel.
“Due to the fact that the settlements are illegal in international law, the performance of financial activity in the settlements such as money transfers, investments, acquisition of property, provision of supplies or the performance of any other economic activities that benefit the settlements involves risks,” the statement reads in French.
The document also stated that the international community does not recognize the settlements as part of Israel, which could lead to “land disputes or disagreements regarding water, quarries or other natural resources.”
“We call upon citizens or businesspeople who are considering becoming involved in economic activity in the settlements to seek appropriate legal advice before going ahead,” the statement adds.
The warning from the French government is non-binding, so a French national who conducts financial activities in the settlements would not be breaking the law in France. However, over the last year, Europe’s private sector and Israeli businesses that work in the settlements have seen boycotts of their goods and services.
The Dutch government has recently issued a similar warning to its citizens, with recommendations that products from the settlements on sale in supermarkets are to be marked. Shortly afterwards, the largest water company in The Netherlands declared that it was canceling a contract with Mekorot, Israel’s national water company.
About a week ago, the Israeli Foreign Ministry asked its ambassadors across the EU to contact European foreign ministries, asking them to refrain from issuing the warnings.