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EU urges Mideast parties to avoid 'provocation'

by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) April 27, 2010
The European Union urged parties linked to the Middle East conflict to avoid "provocation", after Israel accused Syria of smuggling Scud missiles to its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

"The European Union is concerned by the public statements that have been exchanged recently between various parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East," EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said.

"Such developments go against the efforts of the EU and its key partners, who are working constantly to address the problems that are hampering the peace process," she said in a statement that did not explicitly mention the Scuds.

"The EU has on several occasions reiterated its concern about the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process," she said, adding that "the EU calls upon all parties to avoid any provocation and move towards lasting peace".

An EU official explained that Ashton was referring to the Scuds.

Earlier this month, Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Syria of arming Hezbollah with Scuds, a charge Damascus has strongly denied.

Washington has stopped short of openly accusing Damascus of supplying Hezbollah with the missiles, but has said Syria has provided the group with a "wider array" of weaponry.

The Scud allegations come as the US administration has boosted relations with Syria and US lawmakers have seized on them to argue against a bigger rapprochement.

Relations between Damascus and Washington plummeted after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in a Beirut car bombing widely blamed on Syria and its allies.

Relations were already strained amid US allegations that Syria was not doing enough to prevent the flow of arms and recruits to the anti-US insurgency in neighbouring Iraq.

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