EU Meets DC

Envoy George Mitchell and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will team up to try to get the Israeli-Palestinian talks back on track. Today, Mitchell met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. As the envoy put it, he is “still trying to find common ground” between parties who don’t seem to want to budge. Ashton will meet with the Palestinian prime minister tomorrow morning and then with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Yesterday, Ashton was holding a press conference with Hillary Clinton in which the secretary of state announced that she will head to Serbia and Kosovo in ten days or so to talk about the “practical issues” between the two countries. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, something Serbia has never accepted. Kosovo is currently recognized by seventy countries and the two nations are supposed to resume EU-facilitated talks about the issue soon.

A Pentagon spokesman said yesterday that Beijing and Washington are set to resume military contact next month in Hawaii. “Both sides agreed that dialogue is essential to build mutual trust and reduce the chances of misunderstanding and miscalculation,” said Colonel Dave Lapan.

Meanwhile, Washington is still looking for some sign from North Korea that the regime is behind a 2005 agreement in which Pyongyang agreed to give up its nuclear program. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said yesterday that “We need to see a very clear signal that this new leadership . . . accepts the very clear commitments that North Korea made in 2005.” In the last five years, North Korea has conducted two nuclear-weapons tests, one in concert with a short-range missile test.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice is part of a group of UN Security Council members that will travel to Africa next week, stopping in Uganda and then moving to Sudan. Preparations are under way in Sudan for a January referendum on Southern Sudan’s independence. That vote is considered key to keep the peace between the North and South of the country. The diplomats are heading overseas to see how things are progressing one hundred days before the poll.