BRUSSELS: The European Union on Sunday urged Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, saying US efforts to broker peace must not be allowed to "go to waste."
"Negotiations are the best way forward," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in response to the breakdown last week in months of efforts by Washington to keep the two sides talking.
"The extensive efforts deployed in recent months must not go to waste," Ashton's statement added.
"The EU calls on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid any action which may further undermine peace efforts and the viability of a two-state solution."
Talks between the two resumed in July and were to have lasted nine months until Tuesday, April 29, but Israel angrily pulled out last week in response to a reconciliation deal bringing together the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Islamist Hamas movement which has pledged to destroy the Jewish state.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has pledged however that his new unity government will reject violence and recognise Israel and existing agreements.
Ashton said "the EU expects any new government to uphold the principle of non-violence, to remain committed to achieving a two-state solution and to a negotiated peaceful settlement ... including Israel's legitimate right to exist."
"The fact that President Abbas will remain fully in charge of the negotiation process and have a mandate to negotiate in the name of all Palestinians provides further assurance that the peace negotiations can and must proceed," she added.