Palestinians Say See EU as Their 'Ally of Choice'

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DUBLIN - Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath described the European Union as "the ally of choice" on Friday and urged Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen to do all he could to rekindle a peace process when he visits the Middle East next week.

Cowen said inaction in the region was "simply not an option" during Ireland's six-month presidency of the EU, which started on January 1.

He will meet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom next Thursday before travelling to Egypt to meet counterpart Ahmed Mahar on Saturday. He will not, however, meet Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Sha'ath was in Dublin to try to rejuvenate a peace plan which was launched last year but has been all but abandoned due to the refusal of Palestinian militants to agree a cease-fire.

"Our relationship with Europe and the European Union has been one with what I call the ally of our choice," Sha'ath said, distinguishing between Europe and the United States.

"The difference between the United States and Europe, in our view, has to do really with geographical, cultural and strategic proximity...," he said. "Our trade, cultural and political relations are much closer to Europe because of history."



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