Ashton meets Abbas, Fayyad; urges return to talks

EU foreign policy chief says both Israelis and Palestinians must find a way to renew negotiations; calls for further easing of Gaza blockade.

Catherine Ashton 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Catherine Ashton 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad separately on Thursday and reiterated the EU's position that Israelis and Palestinians must "find a satisfactory way to engage without delay in substantive negotiations on all final status issues."
"There is no alternative to a negotiated solution. Urgent progress is needed towards a two state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security as part of a just and comprehensive peace," Ashton said in a statement.
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In addition to meeting with Fayyad and Abbas, Ashton visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The meetings with PA officials came after she spoke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Oppostion leader Tzipi Livni on Wednesday.
Ashton stated that the fact that she chose to visit the region in her first official trip abroad in 2011 shows the EU's commitment to finding a solution to the conflict.
"We will do whatever is possible to help both parties choose the path of peace and engage in successful negotiations. I have reaffirmed the EU's willingness and commitment to contribute to a negotiated solution and post conflict arrangements. We will also continue to support the successful Palestinian state-building efforts," said Ashton.
Ashton called on the Quartet to meet as soon as possible to help find a solution to the impasse in negotiations, suggesting February's Munich Security Council was a good occasion for such a meeting.
Ashton praised recent Israeli decisions to loosen the blockade of the Gaza Strip but added that further efforts were needed "to achieve a fundamental change of policy that allows for the reconstruction and economic recovery of Gaza while addressing Israel's legitimate security concerns."