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EU's Ashton to hold Middle East 'Quartet' talks

AFP , Friday 31 Jan 2014
The European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Catherine Ashton (Photo: Reuters)
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EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton will chair a meeting of top international officials working on the Israel-Palestinian peace process on Saturday, saying "bold" decisions are needed.

"This meeting takes place in a moment when difficult and bold decisions need to be made," Ashton said in a statement Friday.

Ashton said she will be joined Saturday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and former British prime minister Tony Blair, envoy for the so-called Quarter helping to shepherd the fragile peace process -- which includes the EU in addition to the UN, US and Russia.

Kerry has been leading a new push for a Middle East peace since July, engaging in talks with all interested parties even as Israel and the Palestinians continue to trade barbs, especially over Israeli plans for new settlements in the West Bank.

"The dividends of peace for Israelis and Palestinians are enormous," Ashton said.

"I hope that together we can help those (bold) decisions to become a reality to continue working towards a negotiated peace agreement, setting an end to the conflict and fulfilling the legitimate aspirations of both parties."

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