EU`s Ashton targets Palestinian state by September

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday said the international community still sought to achieve a peace deal and a Palestinian state by September, despite the region`s political turmoil.

Last Updated: Feb 16, 2011, 11:39 AM IST

Jerusalem: EU foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton on Wednesday said the international community still
sought to achieve a peace deal and a Palestinian state by
September, despite the region`s political turmoil.

Despite the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
and the resignation of the Palestinian cabinet as well as Saab
Erakat, their chief negotiator, Ashton said the goal was still
achievable.
"It`s a timeframe that everybody has signed up to,"
she told reporters in Jerusalem ahead of talks with
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank town of
Ramallah.

"I think that we have to try and reach that target,"
she said, while admitting it would be "challenging."

Ashton flew in for a one-day visit aimed at
galvanising both sides into restarting peace negotiations
which hit an impasse late September and look unlikely to
resume any time soon.

The deadline for achieving a peace deal was initially
set by US President Barack Obama when he launched
American-sponsored direct peace talks last September 2, only
for the process to be suspended three weeks later.

The Middle East peace Quartet -- the European Union,
United States, Russia and United Nations -- earlier this month
reiterated its support for "concluding these negotiations by
September 2011."
Ashton met her Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman
on Tuesday before going to the West Bank city of Ramallah
where she met Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki,
government chief Salam Fayyad and Palestinian Authority
president Mahmud Abbas.

"The analysis that I`ve just put to foreign minister
Lieberman is that when you do have a situation of change...
It`s also a moment to reflect on whether it`s time now to see
progress on this issue, on these (peace) talks," she said.

Israeli public radio quoted the firebrand Lieberman as
telling his guest that the international community must find a
way to block Iran`s nuclear ambitions before asking Israel to
make concessions to the Palestinians.

Ashton was later meeting Israel`s Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu.

Her visit is part of a Middle East tour in the context
of two massive popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that
deposed their long time presidents and are shifting the
region`s strategic balance.

PTI