EU High Representative Mogherini meets with Abbas, scheduled to hold talks with PM Netanyahu as well in attempt to revive peace talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is committed to pursuing peace negotiations with the Palestinians, and it is in fact the latter who abandoned last year’s US-led negotiations, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Wednesday.
The newly appointed Hotovely told Mogherini that the Palestinians must cease to undertake unilateral steps against Israel in the international arena, and that the EU must condemn terrorism more forcefully.
Mogherini met Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas the same day as a row erupted over a controversial Israeli plan to stop Palestinians using the same buses as settlers.
She met the Palestinian leader at his West Bank headquarters at the start of a 24-hour visit to the region on her first trip to the region since a new right-wing Israeli new government was sworn in last week.
Mogherini’s aim is to discuss bilateral relations “as well as prospects for the Middle East peace process,” her office said ahead of the trip.
Israel’s government, which was sworn in on May 14, has notably shifted to the right by giving increased prominence to Naftali Bennett’s far-right Jewish Home, which opposes a Palestinian state and strongly backs settlement activity.
The move looks likely to complicate Israel’s already damaged relationship with the Palestinians and further strain ties with the international community.
Adding to tensions, a Palestinian driver rammed his car into two border policewomen in annexed east Jerusalem, moderately injuring them, before he was shot dead by another officer.
Later on Wednesday, Mogherini was to travel to Jerusalem for dinner with Netanyahu, then meet President Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Thursday.
A European diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mogherini’s aim was to sound out both sides on the prospects of reviving peace talks which collapsed in April 2014.
“She’s coming to talk to Netanyahu after the formation of the new government to see what can be done in terms of the resumption of negotiations,” he said.
“This is just the beginning. She wants to test the ground after the formation of the new Israeli government to see what the Europeans can do.
“She wants to see what can be done.”
During her talks with Abbas, she was expected to raise the issue of the intra-Palestinian unity deal between his Fatah movement and the rival Hamas, whose stronghold is in Gaza.
The accord was signed in April 2014 but which has largely run aground.
“The bottom line is there are no big expectations,” the European source said, noting that her visit was taking place just ahead of next week’s meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels at which she would brief them on her trip.
Mogherini took over as foreign policy chief for the 28-nation European Union in November and visited Israel and the Palestinian territories shortly afterwards, saying she wanted to make a priority of pushing forward the Middle East peace process.
She has been criticized in Israel for her vocal insistence that a two-state solution is the only way forward and for her condemnation of Israeli settlement building.
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