EU's Ashton denies drawing parallel between Toulouse, Gaza
(BRUSSELS) - The European Union denied Tuesday that its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton drew a parallel between the French Jewish school shooting and the situation in Gaza after Israel slammed her remarks.
Her spokesman Michael Mann insisted that her words, expressed in a speech at a youth event organised in Brussels on Monday by the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA), were "grossly distorted."
"In her remarks, the High Representative referred to tragedies taking the lives of children around the world and drew no parallel whatsoever between the circumstances of the Toulouse attack and the situation in Gaza," he said.
Ashton "strongly condemns" the shooting that left three children and a teacher dead at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse on Monday, and extends her sympathies to their families, France and the Jewish community, Mann said.
Mann added that Ashton was making a "general remark" about violence against children around the world.
"She wanted to draw attention to the unfortunate fate of children around the world who lose their lives. Any indication or suggestion that there is a comparison or a parallel is incorrect," he said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on Ashton to retract her remarks, with his office saying that he "felt that the declarations of Catherine Ashton were not appropriate".
After the incident, Ashton paid tribute to children "who have been killed in all sorts of terrible circumstances," referring to a fatal coach crash in Switzerland, last year's massacre in Norway, the unrest in Syria, the Toulouse shooting and "what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world."
The Hamas-led Gaza Strip is often the scene of tit-for-tat violence between Israel and militants.
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