EU pushes Mideast conference despite U.S.

June 15, 2011 at 12:30 PM
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BRUSSELS, June 15 (UPI) -- Europe is pushing a Paris peace conference, opposed by Israel and the United States, as an alternative to a U.N.-backed Palestine state declaration.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has written to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, calling for an urgent meeting of their Middle East Quartet, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reports.

She said the Quartet should push a peace plan based on President Barack Obama's May 19 speech: "Borders based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, and firm security guarantees."

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected the idea.

France, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain are backing Ashton, a senior European diplomat said.

The Americans have rejected the French initiative, but the Europeans have come to believe it is needed to head off the likely declaration of a Palestinian state by the U.N. General Assembly in September, the diplomat said.

Ashton told the Quartet: "It is critical we make a gesture before the summer, because we need to contribute to a calming of a volatile situation that promises to be even more so as the year progresses."

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