EU policy chief visits Israel, Gaza


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The European Union’s foreign policy chief crossed into Gaza from Israel during a visit to the region.

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, arrived in the coastal strip Thursday one hour before a rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza killed a migrant worker in the northern Negev.

Ashton, who met with U.N. officials during her Gaza visit, had said prior to entering the strip that she would not meet with Hamas officials.

She condemned the rocket attack while in Gaza.

"I condemn any kind of violence," Ashton told reporters. "We need to move forward to get the peace process moving toward a successful resolution."

Earlier, during a news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Ashton said she was visiting Israel to "demonstrate the commitment of the European Union to the Middle East peace process," and "to support the bilateral relationships with Israel and to have discussions about some of the economic questions between us, to ensure that we have those relationships on solid footing."

Ashton said that during her meetings with Israeli officials, she also would discuss concerns about Iran and the problem of nuclear proliferation.

She also met Thursday with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Israel and Gaza were the last stops on Ashton’s five-day tour of the Middle East that included Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. She was to meet Friday in Moscow with representatives of the Quartet on the Middle East.

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