Abbas seeks more active EU role in Mideast peace process

10:29, March 18, 2010      

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the European Union (EU) on Wednesday to play a more active role in the Middle East peace process.

Abbas made the appeal during a meeting with new EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at his office in the West Bank Ramallah. Ashton will be visiting several states in the region including Israel.

Abbas urged Ashton to continue the European economic aid offered to the Palestinians "to contribute to building the Palestinian establishments," according to the state-run Palestinian news agency Wafa.

The report said that President Abbas briefed Ashton over the developments in the region, mainly the stalled peace process and the Palestinian position concerning the resumption of the stalled peace talks with Israel.

"President Abbas told Ashton that it is necessary to implement the commitments of both Israel and the Palestinians mentioned in the Roadmap peace plan," said the report.

Ashton, after visiting Ramallah and talks with Abbas, is scheduled to visit the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday. Her Middle East tour has taken her to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

During her tour, Ashton said that she wants to visit the Gaza Strip "to closely see the situation in the enclave and follow the mechanism of delivering the European aid and its advantages."

Israel, which at the beginning refused to let Ashton to cross into the Gaza Strip through its territories, had finally accepted the request following a European pressure.

Meanwhile, a leading international relief agency on Wednesday urged Ashton to focus on lifting Israel's blockade on Gaza when she visits the coastal enclave Thursday.

In a statement, Oxfam International, which operates in the Palestinian territories, urged Ashton "to make the immediate lifting of the Israeli-imposed blockade her top priority."

Oxfam said the siege, which Israel has been imposing since June 2007, has put Gaza's economy on the verge of collapse and crippled basic water and sanitation services in the impoverished strip.

The statement also said Israel's three-week military campaign on Gaza, which ended in January 2009, along with keeping the closure in place have added more suffering to the Gazans who could not rebuild their houses due to the lack of construction materials.

The EU, the largest donor to the Palestinians, "has so far failed to match its strong words with action," Oxfam said, referring to an international donors' conference a year ago that had allocated more than 4 billion U.S. dollars to rebuild Gaza. " Little of this money has been spent due to Israel's closure policy, " said the statement.

Source: Xinhua
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