Israel’s neighborhood was never riskier, says E.U. foreign policy chief


(JTA) – The area in which Israel exists has never been more dangerous, the European Union’s new foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Mogherini made the statement on Friday in Jerusalem, during her first official trip outside Europe since August, when she was appointed High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

“It is true that never as now has the situation been more dangerous in this area, but this could also bring some opportunities in terms of regional framework,” Mogherini said during a joint press conference held with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In her address, Mogherini made no mention of Israeli activity in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem, which the European Union considers illegal and has condemned many times, including in a statement she released earlier this week. Instead, she said that the “European Union would always encourage direct talks, not unilateral steps on both sides, to find the solution of the two states” in which Israel has secure borders and the Palestinians have their own country.

Mogherini replaced Catherine Ashton, who has been a vocal critic of Israel’s settlement policy and other actions concerning Palestinians and minorities.

In his address, Netanyahu said Jerusalem is not a settlement and that the root of the conflict with the Palestinians is their “failure to recognize Israel in any boundary.” He also criticized European politicians who recognized the Palestinian Authority’s claim to statehood outside the now-defunct negotiations with Israel, calling them “irresponsible.”

Netanyahu called for “rolling back” the Islamic State terror organization from Syria in Iraq and reiterated Israel’s opposition to any deal with Iran that allows it to enrich uranium, which Israel fears could be bring Iran closer to possessing nuclear arms.

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