Two-state solution "vital," Ashton says
It is "vital" to create two secure states in the Middle East to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the European Union's new foreign-policy supremo told the European Parliament on Monday, DPA reported.
Catherine Ashton is set to steer the EU's diplomacy over the next five years, making her a key commentator on the bloc's future relations.
"It is absolutely vital that we get progress in the Middle East to get two states that exist. The State of Israel has the right to exist securely and safely in the Middle East, as does the Palestinian state," Ashton told her confirmation hearing in the parliament.
However, given that it is the Palestinians and Israelis who will have to draw up the terms of a peace deal, "how that comes about is not up to me," she stressed.
At the same time, she insisted that it was vital for both sides to push ahead with talks, rather than digging in their positions between rounds of fighting.
"It is important that we do not mistake the relative calm for some form of long-term security, but see it as an opportunity to move forward with the (peace) process," she said.
On Tuesday, Ashton is set to meet the international community's top envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair, and the US negotiator on the issue, George Mitchell.
Mitchell is then scheduled to talk with his counterparts from the EU, Russia and the United Nations, in Brussels on Wednesday.