EU's Ashton: Settler Attack on West Bank Mosque Undermines Mideast Peace

European High Representative for Foreign Affairs urges Israel to investigate torching of Qusra mosque, calling it an attack on 'freedom of religion or belief'.

The setting on fire of a West Bank mosque at the hands of settlers undermines trust necessary to achieve peace in the Middle East, the European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday.

Ashton's comments came after a mosque in the West Bank village of Qusra, south of Nablus, was set on fire Monday morning, hours after Israeli police officers destroyed three illegal structures in the settlement outpost of Migron.

Ramallah arson mosque - David Bachar - Tues 7 june 2011
David Bachar

According to Palestinian sources, a group of settlers arrived at the village mosque at approximately 3 A.M., threw burning tires toward it, and broke several of its windows. The event is the latest in a series of clashes between settlers and Palestinians in the region.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack, stating that it is not the first of its kind to be carried out by settlers against mosques in the West Bank, and called on the Middle East Quartet to get involved.

In response to the attack, the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy issued a statement which strongly condemns the setting on fire and vandalising of the Al-Nurayn mosque in Qusra in the West Bank on Monday".

"These provocations seriously undermine efforts to build the necessary trust for a comprehensive peace in the region," Ashton's statement read, adding that "the EU will continue to work for a peaceful and negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

The statement also said that "attacks against places of worship undermine the freedom of religion or belief which is a fundamental human right," calling on Israeli authorities "to investigate the attack, bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent such attacks happening again."