Europeans eye greater Mideast role despite Israel snub

France, Spain stress the importance of Europe`s role in Mideast peace efforts.

Jerusalem: The foreign ministers of France and Spain on Monday stressed the importance of Europe`s role in Middle Eastern peace efforts despite being told to mind their own business by their Israeli counterpart.

Spain`s Miguel Angel Moratinos and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner, who are on a two-day visit to the region, held an early breakfast meeting in Jerusalem with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad a day after meeting top Israeli officials.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, Moratinos said Israel recognised that Europe was playing a growing role in efforts to resolve the Middle East conflict.

"If we didn`t have a role, if we didn`t have any weight, if we didn`t have any influence, maybe our friend Lieberman wouldn`t have reacted as he did," Moratinos said, referring an outburst late on Sunday by Israel`s outspoken Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during dinner with his European guests.

"Before coming here to tell us how to solve our conflicts, I would expect you could have at least solved all the problems within Europe," Lieberman told Kouchner and Moratinos in comments widely published in the Israeli media.

Kouchner said although Europe did not have the same level of involvement as the United States, it had managed to successfully resolve centuries of conflict.

"Yes, we have problems in Europe. But it is also an example of problem solving," he said, noting that Europe was comprised of 27 countries "who were at war for centuries but which now get along," he said.

The French minister also said he was optimistic about the resolution of an impasse over renewed Jewish settlement building in the West Bank, which is threatening to bring down fresh peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Bureau Report

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