EU should be represented at Mideast peace talks: France

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France on Friday said the European Union should be at the table when the Israeli and Palestinian leaders resume direct peace talks in Washington next month.

The US-mediated talks, the first since Israel launched a devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip in December 2008, begin on September 2 and will also be attended by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the EU should be represented by its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"It would be a shame if there was no European representation," Kouchner said at the end of a conference of French ambassadors.

He referred to the fact that EU countries are the major contributors of Palestinian aid, but the EU plays second fiddle diplomatically behind the United States.

The EU is part of the Middle East quartet, along with Russia, the United Nations and the United States.

"The hopes raised by American mediation have been slow to be realised," Kouchner said, but the resumption of talks "invites us to be a little more optimistic after a year punctuated by crises".

© 2010 AFP

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