Ashton appeals to Palestinians and Israelis to start talks
Catherine Ashton, appealed Monday (01 February) from Berlin for the Palestinians and Israelis to resume Middle East peace talks as soon as possible. « They must seize the chance, » Ashton said. She was making a visit to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top officials.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle affirmed Berlin’s support for a two-state solution in which the Palestinians would have their own internationally recognized state, and said a peace-talks « road map » agreed in 2003 was still valid. « We support the road map being put into effect, » he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the prospect of renewed talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Monday, during a visit to Berlin by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Merkel, who met last week with Israeli President Shimon Peres, said both the Israelis and the Palestinians recognized that it was in their interest to resume negotiations.
« Now it is about finding acceptable conditions for such talks, » Merkel said, adding that so-called « proximity talks » could provide the groundwork to resume direct negotiations. These initial discussions, as proposed by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, would take place indirectly. « I think Israel is positive about the prospect, and it would be good if the Palestinian side could also reach a positive assessment, » Merkel said of Mitchell‘s proposal.
Abbas said the Palestinians would decide within the next week whether to accept Mitchell‘s conditions to resume talks aimed at a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
The Palestinian president also said it was key to reconcile his Fatah movement with the militant Hamas group, upon whom he called to sign an agreement which would enable presidential and legislative elections. « If Hamas agrees to this, we see things taking the right course, » Abbas said.