Lieberman Ashton 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A number of EU countries are expressing impatience with the pace of the
Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process and want to see Israel propose a concrete
plan to move the process forward, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday, according to diplomatic
Ashton, in Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday as
part of a regional tour that also includes Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon, met with
Lieberman and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as PA President Mahmoud
Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
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At a press briefing after meeting
Lieberman, Ashton – who was last in the country early last month – said her
visit here was aimed at injecting a new drive into what she admitted was a
process that at the present lacked momentum.
Addressing the dramatic
changes in the region, Ashton said that it provided a “moment to try and make
progress, rather than stand still and reflect.”
One position that has
been articulated recently by EU officials is that with new governments to be
formed in Egypt, Tunisia, and perhaps elsewhere in the region, positive steps by
Israel on the Palestinian track could go a long way toward strengthening
moderate forces in those countries, and taking the Palestinian issue away from
extremists who might use it to win electoral support.
Ashton gave no
indication that the EU would recognize Palestinian independence in September if
an agreement was not reached by then, saying that the Palestinians had not
raised the matter with her.
Lieberman, following his meeting with Ashton,
said that rather than focusing on the Palestinian situation, the international
community should first solve the Iranian problem.
“Please, first try to
solve the Iranian problem, then our willingness to take risks and solve the
Palestinian problem will be a lot greater,” he said.
Ashton, when asked
about this sentiment by The Jerusalem Post
, said she made clear to Lieberman
that she was very aware of the concerns in Israel and around the world about
what Iran is doing.
“However,” she said, “I think we have to be careful
about linking everything back to everything else. The international community
will pursue its objectives of persuading Iran to not pursue nuclear weapons,
regardless, because that is in all our interests.”
Ashton said that
making progress on a two-state solution, which she said was achievable, had
“nothing to do, directly, with the fact that we all know that we also have to
find a way of resolving the nuclear issue with Iran.”