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(photo credit: AP)
Ireland has "warm" and "positive" feelings for Israel, Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern assured Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni at a meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday, according to Israeli officials at the meeting.
Ahern was in the country for a two-day visit.
During the meeting, according to Israeli officials, Livni outlined her position that a two-state vision meant two different homelands, and that the Palestinian homeland should be the solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, just as the Jewish homeland was the destination of Jewish refugees.
Ahern, according to the officials, raised the issue of Israel's security barrier, and said that it was not a solution to security threats. He also raised the issue of settlements, specifically the planned E-1 neighborhood that would link Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem, and which is currently not under construction.
Livni said that while she would like to see Ma'aleh Adumim connected to Jerusalem, Israel was not building anything in the area at the moment, with the exception of a police station.
She told her Irish counterpart that there was no outward expansion of settlements, and that all construction of settlements was internal. She assured him that the decision to build in Maskiot in the Jordan Valley had been reconsidered by Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
Livni expressed Israel's appreciation for Ireland's decision to send some 130 soldiers to the new UNIFIL peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
Although Israeli-Irish ties are widely considered in Jerusalem to be among the most difficult bilateral relationship Israel has with any EU country, issues raised included the possibility of cooperation on various international aid projects, increasing trade between the two countries, and a possible first visit by the Irish president.
In a related matter, Hungarian Foreign Minister Kinga G ncz arrived Wednesday for a two-day visit.
She is scheduled to meet Livni, Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Acting President Dalia Itzik. A Foreign Ministry spokesman described Israeli-Hungarian ties as "excellent."
The spokesman said that G ncz's visit was one of several by the new eastern European EU countries who - understanding that the EU is being called upon to take a greater role in the region - want to gain a greater appreciation of the local situation.
The foreign minister of Estonia was here last month, as was the vice premier of the Czech Republic. This month, in addition to G ncz, the foreign ministers of Poland and Latvia are also expected to arrive.