EU commissioner to meet with Sharon, Abbas

Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner will travel to Israel and the Palestinian Authority this week to hold talks with leading figures in the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Ferrero-Waldner will also address the Prime Minister's Conference for Export and International Cooperation and will hold meetings with Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom and Minister of Finance, Industry, Trade and Employment, Ehud Olmert. The trip comes days after the EU gave agreement in principle to invitations from both parties to provide a third party presence on the Gaza/Egypt border, and this new initiative will be a major focus of the commissioner's visit. Other topics will be the situation following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, the commission's recently published strategy for EU-Palestine cooperation, and the need for both parties to meet their Road Map obligations in full. The commissioner will also discuss with each side the implementation of their Action Plans under the European Neighborhood Policy, which is helping to facilitate trilateral economic cooperation between the EU and the two parties.