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On the way to the Middle East

(BRUSSELS2) Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Palestine, Catherine Ashton has decided to pick up her pilgrim's staff to make a four-day tour of the Middle East. A country that she has already visited several times since her arrival but which is taking a new turn today, notably with the change of regime in Egypt, the timid reopening of Rafah, the Hamas-Fatah agreement, the fateful deadline of September and the declaration of the Palestinian State without forgetting the “Arab revolts”, the Libyan conflict and the bloody crushing of opponents in Syria.

Peace process and Libya on the menu

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs will hold “high-level” meetings with heads of government and international partners, including the United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, announced its spokesperson. “ I want to encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to seize the opportunity and engage in negotiations — declared – before her departure – Catherine Ashton. “ With the significant events underway in North Africa and President Obama's speech last month, it is more urgent than ever that we kick off the Peace Process in the Middle-East. I have proposed a Quartet meeting to help restart negotiations and am looking for positive signs from all sides »

4 days, 4 countries

On Thursday, Catherine Ashton will be in Jordan to meet Foreign Minister Nasser Judehin Amman. On Friday, it will be in Israel and the Palestinian territories, with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. On Saturday, in Cairo, at the headquarters of the Arab League, where Secretary General Amr Moussa is hosting a meeting of the Cairo Group, she will discuss “Libya” with Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (by videoconference), Jean Ping, president of the African Union Commission, and officials of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Finally, on Sunday, return to Israel to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, before flying to Luxembourg where the meeting of European foreign ministers is being held which will take place on Monday.

It is now a habit and a very “comm” tactic. Before each Foreign Affairs Council, the High Representative mounts her pilgrim's staff (generally a taxi plane) which takes her to a region with high media coverage, allowing her to make a little impact and exist among ministers. who have seen others. But this cannot hide certain failures of the High Representative in the management of files. First of all, having bet everything on the Quartet and Tony Blair, as representative of the EU, which is not entirely the case. Then having listened too attentively to the British briefings on the region (undoubtedly excellent but which do not represent the voice of all the countries of the EU: Germany, Spain or France not automatically being on the same wavelength). Finally, having considered the presence of a special EU representative in the region to be superfluous; since the departure of Marc Otte, the position has remained vacant. Today the September deadline – and the possible declaration of the Palestinian State is approaching – and the European Union will not be able to avoid an internal debate to bring its positions closer together. This subject, in itself, deserves a special meeting of all ministers.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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