EU backs French call for Palestinian donor talks

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Europe's leaders Friday backed French plans for a donor conference to help build a Palestinian state and urged resumption of the stalled Middle East peace process, according to a draft declaration seen by AFP.

The draft says a two-day European Union summit "supports the initiative to call a conference in Paris" to muster economic support to build a Palestinian state "in the framework of a re-launched peace process."

The wording stopped short of endorsing efforts by Paris to transform its plan for July donor talks into a wider Middle East peace conference, but left the door open to this possibility should the peace process resume any time soon.

The French offer of a conference has so far met with resistance from the United States as well parties to the talks.

The draft EU statement also said EU leaders backed a call by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for the re-launch of the peace process "as a matter of urgency".

Ashton on June 10 sent a letter to her fellow Quartet principals -- Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- saying it was critical the Quartet make a gesture before the summer in order to calm "a volatile situation" should the UN vote on backing a Palestinian state in September.

"Fundamental changes across the Arab world highlight the need for progress on the Middle East peace process and to ovecome the current stalemate," the statement said.

An EU diplomat said the bloc hoped to see a high-level meeting of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East "in the next two or three weeks" -- a move that would signal movement on the negotiation front.

Envoys from the Quartet meet in Brussels on Friday to look at the possibility of calling a meeting of principals, or ministerial-level talks.

The EU statement also welcomed President Barack Obama's proposal for talks to be based on the 1967 lines.

© 2011 AFP

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