Czech Republic to improve EU-Israel ties


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The government of Czechoslovakia says it will work to improve ties between Israel and the European Union.

The Czech Republic will assume the presidency of the European Union in January and will ask EU members to approve the effort, Israel Radio reported Monday, citing comments by Czech Foreign Minister Karl Schwarzenberg.

The Palestinian Authority, as well as several EU member countries, is opposed to upgrading relations between Israel and the European Union in several areas, including economic, scientific and security, until Israel lifts its blockade of the Gaza Strip and eases restrictions in the West Bank.

The Czech Republic will head the European Union for the first six months of 2009.

Meanwhile, the European Council, made up of foreign ministers of European nations, decided at a meeting Monday to strengthen its ties with Israel.

The council’s decision, despite a vote against upgrading ties taken by the European Parliament on Friday, means closer cooperation on several issues and regular meetings between government ministers.

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