February 25, 2010 - 1:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed his satisfaction at the European Union (EU)'s support for Jerusalem as the future capital of both the Israeli and the Palestinian state when he met European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Wednesday.

Abbas said the idea marked "the start of a political role" for the EU in the region and he would like the United States to adopt such a position.

He reiterated that an independent Palestine would be in Israel' s "vital interest" when he spoke to Belgian senators and deputies during his two-day visit to the EU.

The Palestinian leader expressed particular support for the " very good position" taken by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who suggested moving forward on a current sticking point by granting international recognition to a Palestinian state even before Israel has agreed on its borders.

This was not the official position in Paris, Abbas said, but a point underlined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who met Abbas in Paris on Monday and cautiously phrased Kouchner's suggestion "an idea for the future."

High representative for foreign affairs and security policy Catherine Ashton also met Abbas on Wednesday, a day after she held talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, discussing the killing of Hamas commander Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai in January.

Ashton now is planning a trip to the Middle East in March, which is among the first overseas priorities listed when she came to office.


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