Brussels, 6 July 2011
Speech by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton
on North Africa and the Arab world
Strasbourg, 6 July 2011
And this brings us to the search for peace in the Middle East, between Israel and Palestine.
The changes in the surrounding neighbourhood, the speech of President Obama in May, the moves towards Palestinian reconciliation, the approaching UN General Assembly: all these bring a renewed focus on the possibility of talks and a solution.
I have worked tirelessly for this possibility – working closely with President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad and Prime Minister Netanyahu and with many others in the region; and with our Quartet partners and with the Arab States to look for a strong and ambitious way forward, in which the EU plays the leading role this Parliament wishes us to.
The UN, the US and Russia responded to my letter requesting a Quartet meeting in Washington next Monday.
This will build on the Quartet meeting I chaired in Munich earlier this year.
Since then, the envoys have met intensively – and also, for the first time, with negotiators from both sides.
I do not underestimate the challenge, but my objective is clear – to try and adopt a statement next week that will help the Israelis and Palestinians to bridge the gap, and allow for a return to the negotiating table.
Many are looking to September – and the prospect of a resolution.
We don't yet know what that might say, and what reaction it might bring.
But I am clear that my energies should focus on trying to use this time to get the talks moving – and, on that, the EU is united.
And we have a strong position from the Council Conclusions – a united position.
I understand very well the concerns for the people of Gaza, having visited twice and seen for myself the situation.
I stress the need to get the crossings open, to provide what people need, and to ensure the security that Israel needs.
It is there that our energy should lie – and I am encouraged by meetings this week on the ground – but there is much more to do.
I thank Greece for its offer to route humanitarian aid to Gaza, in coordination with the UN.