Mideast peace within reach, Ashton says

Aug. 1, 2013 at 11:22 AM
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BRUSSELS, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- An end to the decades-old conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is within reach, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has put his political capital in the region behind a renewed effort to find a way to settle a crisis befuddling policymakers at least since the 1960s.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz this week reported U.S. President Barack Obama sent each side of the Israeli-Palestinian debate a letter outlining the U.S. position. It said the starting point for peace talks should be the prevailing borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, adjusted with mutually agreed land swaps to account for Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Ashton said in a statement that the European Union was putting its full diplomatic weight behind Kerry's efforts, which she said was a "crucial first step" in securing a long-term peace deal.

"I firmly believe that a final end to this conflict is within reach," Ashton said Wednesday. "I call on all those who wish to see a negotiated solution to support those now engaged in talks so that the opportunity for peace can be seized."

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is leading her side's talks this week in Washington with Palestinian negotiators Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Shtayyeh.

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