EU high representative for foreign affairs Catherine Ashton urged on Saturday Israel to urgently resume peace talks with the Palestinians, on the eve of her first visit to the Middle East, Xinhua reported.
"We need a negotiated peace settlement, it needs to happen quickly and now," Ashton told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with several European foreign ministers in Saariselka, northern Finland.
Ashton said that the European Union would be active in getting the peace talks to resume and had influence in the issue. The European Union could use closer trade ties as leverage to urge Israel to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.
Ashton, who is leaving on Sunday for a tour of the Middle East, warned that reconciliation efforts could fail, and slammed Israel' s announcement of plans on Friday to build new settler homes in East Jerusalem.
"I'm very concerned that Israel announced this just as the proximity talks were beginning between the Israelis and the Palestinians," she said.
Ashton's Middle East tour will last till March 18. During her visit to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Ashton will meet with political leaders and civil society representatives, and deliver a keynote speech in Egypt.