Ashton: J'lem issue must be resolved

EU official urges 2 sides to begin talks; FM stresses Jews' right to capital.

March 17, 2010 20:44
1 minute read.
Catherine Ashton (AP).

CATHERINE ASHTON 311. (photo credit: AP)

Serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have to begin as soon as possible so that the issue of Jerusalem can be resolved, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a press conference following her meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday.

“We attach great importance to the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” she said. “It is central too as part of the solution to other problems in the region, but also of course in the interest of the European Union.” Ashton had stated earlier Wednesday in Lebanon, adding she was still hopeful that indirect talks between the Palestinians and Israelis would resume.

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On the issue of Iran's nuclear enrichment program, Ashton stated the EU recognizes it is clearly not confined to civil applications. She intimated sanctions are an option, saying the European Union would be "supportive of the process going forward to the security council" in the event that the issue could not be resolved through dialogue with Teheran.

The EU foreign policy chief has been on a tour of the middle east including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. As tensions flared in Jerusalem this week, she was asked by Jordanian King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to pressure Israel on the issue of construction in the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, in northern Jerusalem.

In response to Ashton's words at the press conference, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel was willing to immediately begin direct peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

The foreign minister added that the demands for Israel to halt building in Jerusalem for Jews were unreasonable and discriminatory, commenting that the opportunity to lash out at Israel had been seized by the international community with fervor.

Also earlier today, King Abdullah of Jordan was quoted by Al-Hayat as saying, "Jerusalem constitutes a red line for us, and Israel must recognize Jerusalem's status among Arabs, Muslims and Christians, and not play with fire," the day of his meeting with Ashton.

King Abdullah added the peace negotiations had to lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

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