EU ministers express concerns about Israel’s settlement building


JERUSALEM (JTA) — European Union foreign ministers called Israeli settlement building "worrying" as the EU’s foreign policy chief left for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders

In a statement released Monday in Brussels, foreign ministers from the EU’s 27 member countries said that "Against the backdrop of worrying developments on the ground in 2011, particularly with regards to settlements, the EU reaffirms its commitment to a two-state solution."

The ministers also said they "welcome the efforts by Jordan" — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met four times under Jordan’s auspices in the last month, with a fifth meeting scheduled for Wednesday. The statement called on Israel and the Palestinians to bring "comprehensive proposals" to the Jordan-brokered talks that are trying to lead to the resumption of direct peace talks.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is leaving Wednesday for talks in the region and is scheduled to visit Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Meetings are planned with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. 

Ashton is trying to push the recent talks past Thursday’s deadline set months ago by the Mideast Quartet of the United States, the EU, Russia and the United Nations for the resumption of direct peace talks.

"I’ll be looking for positive signs from both sides that they are prepared to turn this progress into real gestures and negotiations," she said in a statement.

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