Amid heightened tensions, the European Union’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton has been in Syria to discuss bilateral relations and how to foster the EU’s role in the region. Damascus was the second stop of Ashton’s first tour of the Middle East since assuming the EU post.
She called on Syria and Israel to resume indirect peace talks, which have been stalled since last year over Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. With key player President Bashar Assad, Ashton noted that the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict would pave the way for wider agreements in the region.
Human rights remains an EU concern, as well as bringing the bloc’s influence more into line with the hundreds of millions of euros in development funds Europe pours into the Middle East.