WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Washington on Monday welcomed an aid package offered by the European Union (EU) to support final status talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Secretary (of State John) Kerry has made clear how important it is for Israelis and Palestinians alike to envision the benefits that peace will bring. The EU's announcement today makes that picture even brighter," Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, said in a statement.
The EU said Monday that it will provide an "unprecedented package" of political, economic and security support to both Israel and the Palestinians to help them reach a final status agreement.
EU foreign ministers agreed that the 28-member bloc will offer Israel and the future state of Palestine "a special privileged partnership."
Harf hailed the announcement, saying: "In particular, the vision of increased access to European markets, closer cultural and scientific links, facilitation of trade and investments, and business-to-business engagement will help strengthen and expand the economies of Israel and of a future Palestinian state."
Washington urged the parties to "remain focused" on the end goal: a final status agreement that ends the conflict and all claims, and creates a sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians, she said. "To that end, the EU has sent a strong message of their intention to help further integrate Israel and Palestine into the international community and a message of the possibilities that peace can bring," Harf added.
Kerry just concluded his visit to the region last week, during which he held talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a bid to prod the two sides to make progress in peace talks, which resumed in July after a three-year halt.
But no tangible progress was made during Kerry's visit, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the U.S. proposal to hold a three-way meeting with Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian side also rejected the Kerry security plan which envisioned the deployment of Israeli troops along Jordanian border on land of the Palestinian state for 10 years.
Palestinian officials blamed the lack of progress on the Israelis who insisted on discussing security issues and refusing to move on to other important topics, including the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian sovereignty, and the question of Palestinian refugees.
However, Kerry remained optimistic about the prospect of a final status peace deal reached by Israel and the Palestinians by April 2014, Ha'aretz newspaper reported Friday.
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