RAMALLAH, Sept. 12 (JMCC) - Israel
has refused a request by the European Union for a visit by five senior EU foreign ministers over reports that they wished to pressure Israel to extend its settlement
freeze, according to the Israeli press.
...The respected Haaretz newspaper reported today that the visit, planned for Thursday, was officially rejected by the Israeli foreign ministry because of the date's proximity to the Jewish religious holiday, Yom Kippur, which begins on Friday evening. However, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz that the real reason was concern that EU ministers wanted to pressure Israel to extend its settlement construction freeze. The 10-month partial freeze is due to expire in two weeks.
The EU meeting is reported to have been initiated by the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner and his Spanish counterpart, Miguel Moratinos, after discussions between them over the EU's efforts to promote the Middle East peace process. Hague would have been a member of the delegation.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was recently criticised in the European parliament for not attending the renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks that were initiated in Washington last week.
Whitehall sources suggested that discussions over the proposed visit to Israel had been led from Europe by the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, and that Hague's office was not directly involved. The Foreign Office said it would not comment on the secretary of state's travel plans.
A meeting with European ministers initiated by Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has been in the pipelines since July, but was postponed from a proposed date in September because it clashed with timelines for the resumed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations...
Read more at the Guardian