ANN CAHILL: EU to seek Syrian talks

THE EU is anxious to begin negotiations with Syria and Lebanon as part of a new drive for peace in the Middle East.

Foreign ministers heard a report from foreign relations chief Javier Solana after his five-day tour of the area and discussed a paper from the Swedish presidency on a comprehensive regional approach to conflict resolution and transformation in the region.

The French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has advised that the EU needs to enhance its profile and role in the Middle East in line with the greater involvement of the Obama administration.

A spokesperson for Mr Solana, Cristina Gallach, said substantial efforts were under way towards launching a new peace process in the margins of the United National General Assembly session next month.

The Union sees a role in improving relations with important players in the region, such as Syria. Mr Solana’s spokesperson said that Syria can play a very important role in bringing peace to the region.

The EU has negotiated an Association Agreement with Syria that includes important human rights clauses but has not been signed yet. Ms Gallach said that finalising the agreement could help improve the situation.

However, agreement on peace negotiations hinge on Israel freezing its settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Foreign minister Micheál Martin said there was now a window of opportunity for getting peace in the Middle East.


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