Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, landed in the Middle East, on 5 January, to increase pressure on Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to find new momentum in the peace process. "Urgent progress is now needed towards a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace and the European Union will continue to support all efforts towards that goal," she said before her departure. "There is no alternative to a negotiated solution," she added.

The sense of urgency from the EU and its partners comes as regional voices sound increasingly pessimistic. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who Ashton was to meet during her visit, said, on 4 January, it would take "at least a decade" to reach a peace accord. "I think that we have good cooperation [with the Palestinians] on the economy and security and we must continue cooperation on these two levels and postpone the political solution for at least a decade," he told AFP.

Limited cooperation between the two sides...

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