EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton 311 (R).
(photo credit: Francois Lenoir / Reuters)
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is set to arrive in Israel on Tuesday
for talks, just a day after the EU decided to ratchet up sanctions against Iran
– and a day before Israeli and Palestinian officials are expected to meet for a
fifth time in Amman.
The EU’s decision Monday to embargo Iranian oil and
freeze the assets of Iran’s central bank, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian
diplomatic process, are expected to be the focus of Ashton’s discussion with
Gantz recruiting nations to combat Iran
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The Amman talks on Wednesday are expected to go a long
way toward determining whether this channel of direct communications will
continue. The Palestinians have said that January 26 is the deadline by which
Israel – according to a framework laid out by the Quartet in September – must
present its comprehensive proposals on border and security issues.
has said the deadline for presenting those proposals was not until early
It is not clear whether the Palestinians will continue the Jordan
talks after January 26, but one Israeli diplomatic source said the Palestinians
were under international pressure to do so.
Diplomatic sources said the
Ashton visit was arranged about a week ago.
Ashton is scheduled to arrive
Tuesday afternoon and meet first with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and then with
President Shimon Peres.
From Jerusalem, she will travel to Ramallah for a
meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Wednesday she will spend most of the day in Gaza, meet in Jerusalem in the
evening with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and later with Prime Minister
She is also expected to meet PA President Mahmoud
Abbas on Thursday, though the venue has still not been
Israeli officials said Jerusalem had “no problem” with Ashton
visiting Gaza, as long as she did not meet with Hamas officials – something she
is not expected to do.
The EU’s position is that it will not engage with
Hamas until it rejects terrorism, recognizes Israel and accepts previous
During her visit, Ashton is expected to
be called upon to condemn the words of leading PA cleric Mohammed Hussein, the
mufti of Jerusalem, who last week at a Fatah rally recited a passage from Muslim
scripture calling for the killing of Jews.
Netanyahu, who on Sunday
called on the attorney-general to investigate Hussein for incitement, said at a
Likud faction meeting Monday that these words were pernicious on two counts.
First, because they were reminiscent of the words of another mufti, Haj Amin
Husseini, whom cooperated with the Nazis and whom Netanyahu said “was one of the
architects of the Final Solution”; and second, because these words were uttered
by someone who is “supposed to support the building of peace between us and our
The prime minister characterized incitement as an
“obstacle” to peace.
“I expect senior PA officials to condemn this act,”
he said. “Those who want peace should not allow such incitement and calls to
In a related development, the EU announced Monday the
appointment of German diplomat Andreas Reinicke as its special envoy to the
According to a statement, his task will be to “contribute to
achieving the EU’s policy objectives in the region, including a comprehensive
peace, a two-state solution and a settlement of the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-
Lebanese conflicts.” He will also act as the EU envoy to the Quartet, made up of
the US, EU, Russia and UN.
Marc Otte of Belgium, the former EU Middle
East envoy, left his post almost a year ago. Since then the EU’s representative
in the Quartet has been Helga Schmid. Reinicke, currently Germany’s
ambassador to Syria, is a diplomat with some 25- years of experience, most of it
dealing with the Middle East.