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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Ready to Promote Mideast Talks

JERUSALEM -- In her first Middle East trip as EU president, German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Europe's help in bringing Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table, trying to build on a new burst of international efforts to restart peace talks.

Merkel also called on Iran to immediately release 15 British sailors and marines seized in the Gulf on March 23."Britain has the full solidarity of the European Union," Merkel said in a speech at Hebrew University. "We demand the immediate release of the 15 British soldiers."

Merkel, who was meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders Sunday, said the Europeans are ready to offer support, but ultimately both sides must resolve their differences between themselves.

"The Europeans must not assume that they could force a solution. We can't and I don't want to do it," she said in her speech. "Within my abilities, I would like to support the sides to walk the path toward peace."

Her visit came after the Arab world renewed a land-for-recognition offer to Israel last week. Since then, the quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, the EU, the United Nations and Russia -- has said it hopes to arrange a meeting with moderate Arab states, Israel and the Palestinians before the summer.

However, several obstacles are blocking progress.

Much of the world is still reluctant to deal with the new Palestinian unity government, a coalition of the Islamic militant Hamas and the Fatah movement of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, because it has failed to explicitly recognize Israel or renounce violence.