Jordan backs Europe role in Mideast after Israel snub

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Jordan's King Abdullah II on Monday told the visting foreign ministers of France and Spain that Europe has a key role in Middle East, after the pair were snubbed by their Israeli counterpart.

"Europe plays a key role in supporting peace efforts to overcome problems facing the Palestinian-Israeli talks," a palace statement quoted the king as telling French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and his Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos at a meeting.

"A suitable environment should be created to ensure the resumption of the peace talks. Failing to achieve tangible progress in the peace process will increase regional conflicts, tension and violence."

Kouchner and Moratinos, who also met separately with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Amman, were in Jordan as Europe seeks to enhance its role in the deadlocked peace process.

"The European countries want to be more involved, not only financially but also politically," a Jordanian official said.

The foreign ministers had met on Sunday with Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who reportedly told them to mind their own business.

"If we didn't have a role, if we didn't have any weight, if we didn't have any influence, maybe our friend Lieberman wouldn't have reacted as he did," Moratinos told reporters.

In a widely published outburst, Lieberman told his guests during a dinner on Sunday: "Before coming here to tell us how to solve our conflicts, I would expect you could have at least solved all the problems within Europe."

Speaking to reporters, Moratinos said Israel recognised Europe was playing a growing role in efforts to resolve the Middle East conflict.

"If we didn't have a role, if we didn't have any weight, if we didn't have any influence, maybe our friend Lieberman wouldn't have reacted as he did," Moratinos said.

Kouchner said although Europe did not have the same level of involvement as the United States, it had managed to successfully resolve centuries of conflict.

"Yes, we have problems in Europe. But it is also an example of problem solving," he said, noting Europe comprised of 27 countries "who were at war for centuries but which now get along."

Kouchner also said he was optimistic about the resolution of an impasse over renewed Jewish settlement building in the West Bank, which is threatening to bring down fresh peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

On Sunday, the minister told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam that France preferred a two-state solution to be negotiated with Israel but an appeal to the UN Security Council to resolve the conflict remained a possibility.

"We want to be able to soon welcome the state of Palestine to the United Nations. This is the hope and the desire of the international community, and the sooner that can happen the better," he said.

"The international community cannot be satisfied with a prolonged deadlock. I therefore believe that one cannot rule out in principle the Security Council option," he added.

"But the establishment of the Palestinian state must come as a result of the peace process and be the fruit of bilateral negotiations."

Kouchner and Moratinos called in February for an international summit to recognise a Palestinian state.

But a Western diplomat in Amman told AFP on Monday that "this is a symbolic way to lobby for recognition of a Palestinian state, but it does not resolve the question on the ground."

Israel has rejected Palestinian and international demands to extend a 10-month moratorium on new settler homes that expired last month despite Abbas ruling out any further talks until settlement activity is halted.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, France, like the United States, Britain, Russia and China, would be able to veto any measure calling for recognition of a Palestinian state in territories occupied in 1967.

© 2010 AFP

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