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EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, is also in the Middle East for talks with Palestinian leaders. Her visit is to seek a more effective EU role in the peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, besides other issues in the region.
Catherine Ashton said, "I hope a satisfactory way for both sides can be found to proceed with the talks as soon as possible. It's needed if we want to make further progress in the negotiations that can bring this conflict to an end. I have and I will therefore encourage both the Palestinian Authority and Israel to begin substantive discussions on all the final status issues."
The EU foreign policy chief will tour Gaza on Sunday to gauge whether Israel's decision to ease its 3-year blockade of the Gaza Strip has improved the lives of its citizens. Ashton says Gaza's borders must open to enable the territory's battered economy to recover, adding Israel needs to go further. On the same day, Hamas said it sees Ashton's visit as an opportunity to end the Israeli blockade.