Catherine Ashton will visit Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, seen here on October 15, kicks off a five-day Middle East tour with a stop Monday in Jordan where she visits Zaatary refugee camp, home to some 36,000 Syrians, her office said. © John Thys - AFP/File
Catherine Ashton will visit Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank
Last updated: October 22, 2012

EU's Ashton on five-day Middle East tour

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton toured a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan on Monday and held talks with King Abdullah II on the first leg of a five-day Middle East tour, officials said.

During their talks the Jordanian monarch reiterated his call for a "political solution to the Syrian conflict that safeguards that country's unity," the palace said in a statement.

Ashton, who also toured the Zaatari camp in northern Jordan, expressed the EU's "appreciation" for the assistance Jordan is providing to Syrian refugees who have fled the deadly violence that has wracked their country for 19 months.

State-run news agency Petra said Ashton met camp residents, including children, and toured schools and a French field hospital, urging continuous help for Syrian refugees in Jordan and other host nations.

Jordan says more than 200,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into its territory since the conflict erupted in March last year, with some 36,000 living in the UN-run Zaatari camp.

UN figures show more than 85,000 refugees registered in Jordan, with another 36,000 awaiting processing.

The EU has said that Ashton goes on to Beirut on Tuesday, then on Wednesday she travels to Jerusalem where she is due to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before holding talks with Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad.

She will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Thursday.

Ashton said in a statement that her trip aims to take forward existing cooperation between the EU and its partners in the region.

In Amman she and the king also discussed efforts to revive deadlocked Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, the palace statement said.

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