BERLIN (Reuters) - Nine European Union states said on Tuesday they would continue working with the six Palestinian civil society groups that Israel designated terrorist associations last year, citing a lack of evidence for that claim.
Israel designated the Palestinian groups as terrorist organisations and accused them of funneling donor aid to militants, a move that drew criticism from the United Nations and human rights watchdogs.
The groups include Palestinian human rights organisations Addameer and Al-Haq, which document alleged rights violations by both Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and which reject the charges.
In a joint statement, the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden said they had not received "substantial information" from Israel that would justify reviewing their policy.
"Should evidence be made available to the contrary, we would act accordingly," they said. "In the absence of such evidence, we will continue our cooperation and strong support for the civil society in the oPT (occupied Palestinian territories)."
The Israeli foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Israel said last year the six accused groups have close ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has carried out deadly attacks on Israelis and is on U.S. and EU terrorism blacklists.
U.N. human rights experts including Michael Lynk, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in occupied Palestinian territory, said in April several funders had delayed their contributions to these NGOs while they investigated the claims, undermining their work.
They called on the international community to instead continue or resume their support.
"A free and strong civil society is indispensable for promoting democratic values and for the two-state solution,” the nine EU states said on Tuesday.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek the territories for a future state.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh in Berlin; Additional Reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich)