Ashton urges FM to come up with proposals

Regional changes not time to "stand still and reflect," but to advance on Palestinian track, EU foreign policy chief tells Lieberman.

Lieberman Ashton 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
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 sources.
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.”