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(photo credit: AP)
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana slammed the construction of the security fence Sunday, before meeting separately with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem.
"I had the opportunity to make a tour along the eastern part of Jerusalem and go to Abu Dis and its surroundings. You get really very shocked every time you go and you see the situation is worse, the wall is more extended and settlements are more extended," Solana told reporters in Amman before arriving in Jerusalem to meet Olmert. His visit to east Jerusalem took place on Saturday.
A senior diplomat in Jerusalem said in response that the fence is "an extremely effective measure against Palestinian terrorism, in particular infiltration by suicide bombers. In those areas where the fence is fully operational the success ratio of Palestinian terrorists dropped down to zero, and waiving the right of self-defense is a luxury Israel cannot afford."
In a break from what is traditionally the case, the Prime Minister's Office did not release any statement following the Solana meeting, something generally done following meetings the Prime Minister has with world leaders. Livni also did not release any statement following her meeting with Solana.
Solana, according to Reuters, said in Amman that he hoped "the realities on the ground" brought about by settlement building would not "prevent a two-state solution from happening." He was quoted as saying that there was currently a "window of opportunity" that the international community and the parties to the conflict should seize to revive diplomatic talks.
The EU is a member of the Quartet, along with the US, EU and Russia, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Friday that Washington would host a meeting of the Quartet principals on February 2. The last such meeting took place on September 20, and a State Department statement said the upcoming meeting would seek ways to "energize international engagement in support of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and progress in accordance with the road map."
"We think there is an opportunity now, an opportunity that should not be let go by to open the political process that should end up with the resolution of the conflict," Solana said in Amman. "The political will is being constructed. It's been too long in which the suffering of people has been very deep ... and the moment we think has arrived to change the approach."
Olmert also met Sunday with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is a potential Republican presidential candidate. The two, according to Olmert's office, discussed the situation in the Middle East, with an emphasis on Iran. Romney is scheduled to address the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday.
Three other potential US presidential candidates, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Democratic senator John Edwards and former Republican House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich were also scheduled to address the conference via satellite.