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EU's Solana: Mideast 'Road Map' Peace Plan Stalled

Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief held talks Thursday with senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Mr. Solana says Mideast peace efforts are stalled.

Javier Solana urged Israeli leaders to stop building illegal settlements in the West Bank, reopen a crucial border crossing, and expressed concern over comments made to him by an Israeli politician about the permanence of West Bank settlements.

The EU foreign policy chief says there is no question that mideast peace efforts are now stalled.

"As far as the Israeli Palestinian peace process, we have the feeling that it is now stalled," he said. "We would very much to see if we can with cooperation of all the parties to see if some movement can be put in place to give not only hope for the people but also realities on the ground."

Solana urged Israel to reopen the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, which Israel has closed for security reasons.

He also said he is concerned about comments made to him by member of the Israeli cabinet who reportedly told the EU diplomat that Israel has no plans to remove West Bank settlements or outposts, as called for under the "road map" peace plan.

Solana was apparently referring to Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of a far right political party that advocates annexing the settlements and expelling large numbers of Israeli Arab citizens.

Lieberman who held talks with Solana on Wednesday joined Israel's cabinet this week. Under the road map plan, Israel is to stop building settlements and Palestinians are to stop terrorist attacks against Israelis - measures aimed at leading to negotiations toward a two-state solution.

Solana's comments came at a news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who said Israel is still committed to the road map peace plan, but Israelis are increasingly concerned about whether they will ever have a reliable partner for peace in the Palestinian territories.

"Unfortunately the situation on the ground in the Gaza Strip sends the wrong message to Israelis - to those who supported disengagement - I believe those Palestinians who want to live in a state of their own and who believe in a two-state solution should take responsibility and act - in order to help us and help all those moderates in the region," she said.

Following his talks with Israeli officials, Solana traveled to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Aides traveling with the EU diplomat said he would urge the Palestinian leader to move forward with plans to create a Palestinian unity government which could begin to receive international aid.

Nearly all international aid to the Palestinians has been suspended since Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, took control of the Palestinian Authority - following parliamentary elections earlier this year.

However, following their meeting, Mr. Abbas said he saw little likelihood of a unity government being formed between his Fatah political faction and Hamas. In recent days the Palestinian president has said he will instead work towards establishing a government made up of technocrats - something Hamas leaders say they oppose.