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EU, Israel to delay discussions on upgrading ties due to Gaza warfare
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19:51, January 15, 2009

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The European Union (EU) and Israel decided to put discussions on upgrading bilateral relations on hold, local daily The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.

Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, the EU's ambassador to Israel, said in a briefing with reporters that the decision to take a "time-out" was a mutual one, with Israeli Foreign Ministry officials too busy now dealing with various aspects of the Gaza crisis to delve into the upgrade discussions.

However, the discussions will resume after the Israel Defense Forces Cast Lead Operation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip if there is a "favorable atmosphere," said the EU envoy.

Cibrian-Uzal defined a "favorable atmosphere" as opening the border crossings into Gaza, economic development in Gaza and an effort to promote dialogue, said the report.

Meanwhile, senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials confirmed that Israel had asked for a postponement of talks until after the fighting stops in Gaza, said the report.

Cibrian-Uzal said both the EU and Israel would determine how "long and deep the time-out is," stressing that this was not a sanction against Israel.

The ambassador expressed his hope that the Gaza crisis would have a "favorable aftermath" that allowed for the continuation of the upgrading process.

Israel-EU bilateral relations were connected to the Middle East conflict, said Cibrian-Uzal, adding it was clear that "business can't continue as usual" during a period of war.

In December, the EU's foreign ministers approved a significant upgrade in the union's diplomatic relationship with Israel, despite Palestinian opposition and some calls in Europe that this should be linked to developments on the ground.

The decision called for ad hoc summit meetings between Israeli prime minister and all EU heads of government, something that has never taken place before.

It also called for the meeting between Israeli foreign minister and all 27 EU foreign ministers three times a year, as well as a strategic dialogue to discuss issues such as Iran 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.

Source: Xinhua

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