The European Union (EU) wants a more active role in seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), the bloc's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday on the eve of her first visit to the region, according to Reuters.
"My very early visit has a political meaning," Mogherini told a news conference following an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels where she discussed the Middle East.
"The European Union is ready and willing to play a major role in a relaunching of this process on the basis of the two-state solution," she added, according to Reuters.
Mogherini announced last week that she would visit the Middle East on Wednesday and Thursday for talks on the peace process with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Criticized in Israel for past contacts with Palestinian leaders, Mogherini said on Monday she wanted to listen to both sides, especially following Netanyahu's formation of a new coalition government.
Mogherini refused to be drawn on alternatives to the decades-old quest for a two-state solution, saying, "One thing is clear to everyone in the region. That the status quo is not an option."
Mogherini took over as foreign policy chief for the 28-nation European Union in November and visited Israel and the PA shortly afterwards, saying she wanted to make a priority of pushing forward the Middle East peace process.
In January, she called for a “fresh look” at the moribund peace talks, saying that she was concerned “about the fact that a process that has gone on for so long, if we just restart the process and that's it, it might not be enough.”
Her upcoming visit comes at a time when pressure is being applied on Israel and the PA to resume the peace process.
On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he believes Israel's long-term security is best served by reaching a “two-state solution”.
During the recent election campaign in Israel, Netanyahu angered several Western leaders when he declared in a series of interviews he would do everything in his power to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
He appeared to backtrack after the election, explaining in an interview that he wants “a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution" but adding that his earlier comments were a reflection of changing conditions on the Palestinian side, pointing to Abbas’s pact to form a unity government with Hamas.
The White House, however, was not impressed with Netanyahu’s backtracking. Obama’s chief of staff, in fact, dismissed the comments and bluntly warned Israel that its "occupation of Palestinian land" must end.
Obama’s spokesman also declared that since Netanyahu had said he was no longer committed to the two-state solution, “that means we need to reevaluate our position in this matter, and that is what we will do moving forward."