EU's Ashton in Israel, Palestinian territories next weekend

AFP , Saturday 20 Aug 2011

The EU's foreign affairs chief will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories on August 27 and 28 as regional tensions escalated on a third day of fighting

European Union high representative Catherine Ashton
European Union high representative Catherine Ashton (Reuters photo)

European Union high representative Catherine Ashton "is going to Israel and the Palestinian territories next Saturday and Sunday," said a diplomatic source, "to talk about the peace process before the UN General Assembly" in September.

Ashton last visited the region in June, but wants to "urge restraint" in person in the run-up to the New York meeting on September 13 -- when the Palestinians want to win statehood rights, and are expected to secure some privileges not normally accorded to non members.

As rockets fired from Gaza wounded three in southern Israel while Israeli planes attacked the coastal enclave, Ashton was said to be pushing for a "proportionate response" on both sides of the fighting.

A statement was expected later in the day from the Quartet trying to jump-start peace in the Middle East -- the EU, the Palestinians' largest aid donor, the United States, Russia and the United Nations itself.

An Israeli army statement said that the latest raids were a response to Thursday's fatal border clashes and the flurry of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza since then.

Israeli diplomatic officials were holding internal discussions on Saturday in the wake of Egypt's decision to recall its ambassador from Israel, the foreign ministry spokesman told AFP on Saturday.

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