EU: Summit with Israel unlikely soon

Czech FM says European countries are "not happy" with construction in east J'lem and Gaza blockade.

Czech FM karel schwarzenberg 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Czech FM karel schwarzenberg 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The EU has said it is unlikely to hold a summit with Israel in the near future as planned, due to its dissatisfaction with Israeli construction in east Jerusalem and the continued blockade on the Gaza Strip, Reuters reported on Tuesday. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose nation currently holds the rotating EU presidency, told his country's Lidove Noviny newspaper that the union was "not happy with some of the steps of the Israeli government, namely construction works close to Jerusalem but also access to Gaza, which is today very limited." "The new Israeli government has not raised much excitement either," he added. The EU's foreign ministers in December approved a significant upgrade in the union's diplomatic relationship with Israel, despite Palestinian opposition and calls in Europe that this should be linked to developments on the ground. The decision called for ad hoc summit meetings between Israel's prime minister and all EU heads of government, something that has never taken place before. Israel's foreign minister was to meet with all 27 EU foreign ministers three times a year. It also called for a strategic dialogue to discuss issues such as Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process and Syria. In addition, it called for the inclusion of Israel in EU peacekeeping forces, and for an EU commitment to help Israel better integrate into UN agencies. Meanwhile in Prague, President Shimon Peres met with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek on Tuesday and warned him that "it would be a mistake on the EU's part to give Israel the cold shoulder" and delay the planned upgrade of EU-Israel relations "due to our war on terror." "Israel is at the forefront of the war on terror," Peres said. "This is a war that we fight not only for our people, but for the entire world. Today terror is in Israel and tomorrow terror will be in Europe." In response, Topolanek said the Czech Republic would "continue to take a friendly and supportive stance with Israel." "During my visit to Israel with European leaders at the end of [Operation Cast Lead], we maintained a strong and resolute stance against Hamas and terrorism, and I plan to continue leading this position," he said. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.