Next EU presidency wants to boost ties with Israel

The Czech government says it wants to boost the European Union's ties with Israel once it assumes the bloc's presidency in January. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg says Prague will ask the EU's 27 countries to agree to stepping up ties with Israel. The Palestinians oppose any EU effort to widen relations with Israel in political, economic, scientific, security, health and other spheres. They say Israel should do more to ease the humanitarian crisis in their areas. Schwarzenberg says increasing relations were "not only in the interest of Israel but also very much in the interest of the Palestinian people." The Czechs hold the EU presidency in the first half of 2009.