Ashton urges solution for 'Jerusalem problem'
Following series of meetings in Arab countries and Palestinian Authority, EU foreign affairs chief meets with Israeli foreign minister, says 'serious negotiations must be launched. Lieberman: We won't allow discrimination against Jews. Arab League secretary-general: No point in talks with Israel
Speaking at a joint press conference in Jerusalem at the end of the 75-minute meeting, Ashton said she hoped US special envoy George Mitchell's attempts to launch indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians would succeed, adding that only serious talks may lead to an overall solution in terms of Jerusalem.
Lieberman defined his conversation with Ashton as "efficient" and said that the two sides showed an understanding. He said he expects to continue the dialogue with the EU.
Lieberman reiterated that there would be no discrimination against Jews in the construction and purchase of apartments in Jerusalem. "In my conversations with foreign leaders I have been asked how we would be defined if we failed to allow the sale and construction of apartments to Arabs, and they told me – naturally – that we would be an apartheid state."
The foreign minister called on the Palestinians to enter direct negotiations immediately. "Since the first day of this government, we have called for direct talks with the Palestinians," he said. "This is the best way to move forward."
Ashton and Lieberman. Agreed on Iran (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The two officials addressed the Iranian nuclear program as well. Ashton said the EU had made it clear that Iran must not continue its nuclear program and that steps had to be taken to ensure that that didn't happen. Otherwise, she said, the matter should be turned over to the United Nations Security Council.
Lieberman called on the EU and the international community to impose immediate sanctions on Iran. "We cannot let the Iranians play for anymore time. The Security Council must make the decisions. We must act according to Churchill's policy, not according to Chamberlain's policy."
Arab League to discuss Jerusalem riots
On Saturday, Ashton criticized Israel's moves in Jerusalem, saying that the EU could use closer trade ties as leverage to urge the Jewish state to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.
"Our ambition is that they know – because they do – that the solution lies in a negotiated settlement. Our view is that it needs to happen quickly and now, with the opportunity that that affords Israel to be able to enhance the relationships it wants with us in any event for the future," she said.
Ashton met earlier Wednesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who asked her to intervene and pressure Israel over the construction beyond the Green Line. According to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Abbas "gave Ashton a letter asking her to pressure Israel to completely halt construction in the occupied Palestinian territories." He added that the letter included maps and documents presenting the volume of building in the settlements since September 2009.
During her first visit to the Middle East, the EU foreign affairs chief also met with Jordan's King Abdullah, who told her that "Jerusalem is a red line" and urged the international community to act firmly and "stop Israel's dangerous and provocative moves."
Meanwhile Wednesday, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa continued to speak against the indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians, saying that "there is no point in negotiations with Israel in the current situation."
Speaking at a press conference in Beirut, Moussa addressed Tuesday's riots in Jerusalem and said that Arab countries would discuss the matter during a summit scheduled to take place in Libya in two weeks.