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Egyptian FM: EU decision to enhance ties with Israel "surprising"
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08:51, December 10, 2008

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Tuesday that his country is surprised by a recent decision of the European Union (EU) to upgrade its relations with Israel.

The EU decision is "strange" since the European bloc has repeated its assertion that enhancing ties with Israel should be based on the improvement of the Middle East peace process, Abul Gheit said in a statement.

On Monday, the EU's 27 foreign ministers unanimously approved to upgrade relations with Israel.

It is a move that "is difficult to understand," especially considering that no tangible progress has been achieved in the regional peace process since its relaunching in November last year, Abul Gheit said.

On the contrary, Israeli policies toward the Palestinians escalated their sufferings, he said.

The continued Israeli settlement activities, the building of the separation wall and the siege on the Gaza Strip caused "an unprecedented deterioration in living conditions (of the Palestinians)," the Egyptian foreign minister stressed.

Israel has sealed off the Gaza Strip, allowing only limited humanitarian aid into the impoverished territory, since the Islamic Hamas movement wrestled control of the enclave from rival Fatah movement loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007.

Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) resumed talks under the auspices of Washington in November 2007, with an aim to create an independent Palestinian statehood before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office in January.

With no conclusive agreement in sight, Israel, the United States and the Palestinians have all accepted that the target cannot be achieved.


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