European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called on Sunday for a return to Israeli-Palestinian talks, warning the peace process must not become "an orphan of the Arab Spring."
He also said that it is important that the two parties “do not act in a way that undermines the viability of a two-state solution.” “In this respect it is with concern that we see the continuous growth of settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”
Barroso, who heads the EU's executive body, was speaking at a press conference after talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on the first day of a trip which includes stops in the West Bank and Israel.
"The momentous change that we are witnessing throughout the Arab world should constitute an incitement and not a deterrent to the resumption of negotiations," he said, according to an advance copy of his remarks.
"The Middle East peace process cannot become an orphan of the Arab Spring."
He said that the EU’s goal continues to be “two states living side-by-side in peace and security.”
“The resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict remains a strategic priority for the EU. We will continue with our efforts, within the Quartet, to facilitate contacts between the parties and to resume substantive talks. In this context, it is important that both sides support confidence building measures to re-launch the peace process,” he added.
“I also welcomed signs of more concrete progress on Palestinian reconciliation. This is a key factor contributing to the unity of a future Palestinian State and to reaching the two-state solution,” Barroso said.
“The prospect of elections, which the Prime Minister has supported, would be a significant contribution to Palestinian state-building. It is important that all Palestinian actors take advantage of the positive developments towards democratisation in the region to build a future of democracy, security and prosperity,” the EU leader said.
After his press conference, together with Prime Minister Fayyad, Barroso travelled to Jericho to inaugurate the Palestine College for Police Sciences which was co-funded by the European Commission.
At the College he signed a cooperation agreement worth 20 million Euros in support of the Rule of Law and Democracy.
“This shows that our support is not just in words but also deeds. We are effectively advancing our common agenda in support of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance,” the Commission said in a statement.
Barroso was also to meet later Sunday in Ramallah with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and was scheduled to tour Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and old city which were recently added to UNESCO's World Heritage Sites list over objections from Israel.
On Monday, the President of the EU Commission will meet with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.
Their talks are expected to focus on the peace process but also efforts to curb Iran's nuclear programme, which Israel says poses an existential threat to the Jewish state.
EU officials said Barroso will also discuss ongoing violence in Syria, where an uprising has been met with brutal repression.
It is the EU Commission President's first official visit to the region.