EU’s Ashton set to discuss
Middle East issues during
Jakarta visit

Issues surrounding the Middle East will take up a significant portion of talks when European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton meets with Indonesian officials during her visit to Jakarta next week, a high-ranking EU official has said on Thursday.

It would mark the recognition by European nations of the growing importance of the role of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, in pursuing peaceful solutions to conflicts in the Middle East. Ashton, who is known for her role as a key negotiator in crucial international issues, is slated to arrive in Jakarta on Monday. It will be her first visit to the archipelago.

Among her main agenda here would be to meet with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and to visit the ASEAN Secretariat, newly appointed EU Ambassador to Indonesia Olof Skoog said.

“Catherine’s trip here is recognition that Indonesia is a very important global player in the international arena, specifically in the region. It also shows that the EU considers Indonesia a very important partner,” Skoog told a press briefing at the EU Delegation office in Jakarta.

“Catherine and her counterpart, Pak Marty, will focus on Indonesia–EU bilateral relations, including partnership and cooperation agreements that are soon to be ratified on both sides,” he added, without elaborating on the agreements.

The EU, according to Skoog, shared Indonesia’s view that a political solution, rather than a military solution, was needed in Syria.

Associated Press reported on Thursday that Ashton had denounced Israel’s plan to build more than 1,500 homes in Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. She called the move illegal and a potential obstacle to peace.

Ashton said the EU “deplores” the Israeli plan and that it violated international law.

Ashton said in a statement on Thursday that “any actions that could hamper or undermine the on-going negotiations must be avoided.”

The construction plan, announced on Wednesday, has also drawn angry condemnations from Palestinian officials, who accuse Israel of undermining newly relaunched peace efforts.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the Israeli plan as well, while Washington said it would not create a “positive environment” for negotiations. — AP

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