EU’s Ashton wants ‘urgent progress’ on peace process

“Current developments must bring us closer to that goal, not further away,” the EU foreign policy chief says.

catherine ashton 311 (photo credit: AP)
catherine ashton 311
(photo credit: AP)
NEW YORK – At a UN Security Council meeting Tuesday, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and vice president of the European Commission said that “urgent progress on the Middle East peace process is vital, now more than ever.”
In remarks before the Security Council, Catherine Ashton referenced having chaired a meeting of the Quartet in Munich last weekend, noting that the quest for negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians “has dominated the region for decades.
“Current developments must bring us closer to that goal, not further away,” Ashton said, noting that the Quartet will meet separately with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, as well as follow up with envoys in Brussels prior to meeting again in March “to ensure the momentum is kept up,” with the goal of a framework agreement by September.
“The parameters for peace as seen by the European Union are well-known: two states, co-existing in peace and security, with a Palestinian state that is sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable, based on 1967 borders with Jerusalem as future capital of two states,” Ashton said. “Our position on this, and on related issues, including settlements, remains unchanged.”
Ashton also reiterated EU budgetary support and security assistance for the Palestinian Authority.
The EU will also host an Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in Brussels in April to promote Palestinian state-building efforts.
“This council knows well the great needs of the people of Gaza.
The European Union is fully committed to support them,” Ashton said.
Ashton stated that she has proposed a comprehensive package of EU support for the Gaza crossings, focusing on infrastructure, equipment and training.
“Our objective remains an unconditional opening of these crossings, while addressing Israeli legitimate security needs,” she said.
Referencing Iran as an issue “that affects the landscape of the wider Middle East, and indeed global security,” Ashton stated that “the fundamental problem is that we do not have confidence that the Iranian nuclear program is purely civilian in nature.”
Calls by Iran in January for the EU to recognize “Iran’s right to the entire fuel cycle, including enrichment” and a lifting of sanctions were “disappointing,” Ashton said.
“From our side, we reiterated that we remain committed to the path of dialogue. Our practical proposals remain on the table,” Ashton said. “If Iran were to adopt some of the transparency measures that most countries already implement, we would be starting a process that could go far.”