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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU: Palestine Must End Attacks

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the European Union presidency, told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that Palestinian attacks against Israel must end.

In a rare visit to the coastal strip by a top European official, Asselborn congratulated Abbas on his Jan. 9 election victory and invited him to Brussels on Feb. 21.

Asselborn was on a two-day visit to the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. It is his first overseas trip since Luxembourg took over the EU presidency on Jan. 1.

In talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Asselborn condemned Palestinian rocket salvos and bombing attacks against Israelis. He returned to the theme in Gaza Thursday.

"We understand the difficulties for the Palestinians, but the violent means and terror will never be acceptable and will lead to an impasse," he told a news conference after meeting with Abbas and Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath. "Bringing security is the most immediate priority. Suicide bombings have to stop, rocket attacks must be stopped."

Responding to journalists' questions, he also called upon Israel to renounce violence against Palestinians.

Abbas, normally based in the West Bank, is in Gaza to try to persuade armed Palestinian groups, such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas, to cease their attacks on Israelis. One of the groups' demands is that Israel stop assassinations of their leaders.

Israeli leaders on Thursday accepted a Palestinian proposal to deploy hundreds of Palestinian police along the Gaza-Israel border to help ensure quiet. The deployment, which is expected to begin within days, appeared to avert a threatened Israeli offensive meant to halt continuing rocket and mortar attacks.

"We told [Israeli generals] that we are arranging a plan to deploy the Palestinian security forces into both the northern and southern parts of Gaza," Major General Moussa Arafat, a Palestinian security chief said. "In the first stage, it will be in the north, and then we will move into the south."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said preparations were under way for the deployment.

After Thursday's meeting, Shaath said Abbas had accepted an invitation to travel to Europe on Feb. 21 to meet with EU foreign ministers. The ministers are gathering in Brussels that day ahead of a visit by U.S. President George W. Bush.

Before leaving for the Middle East, Asselborn told the European Parliament in Brussels that he would urge Sharon to give more breathing space to Abbas, who was sworn in as president of the Palestinian Authority just last weekend.

"The time has now come for us to tell Israel to give the new Palestinian leadership time," Asselborn told EU lawmakers Tuesday.

"I will urge [the Israelis] to give them a chance."