EU says Israel aimed to divide bloc over Jerusalem

AP News
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Posted: Dec 10, 2009 11:34 AM

The European Union accused Israel on Thursday of trying to divide the 27-nation bloc to stop it passing a resolution calling for Jerusalem to be the shared capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state.

The new resolution adopted by the EU on Tuesday sparked an angry reaction from Israel, which captured the eastern half of city on 1967 and considers it its eternal undivided capital. Palestinians want east Jerusalem as part of a future independent state.

An EU official said Israel had lobbied intensively for the European foreign ministers to dilute an earlier draft proposed by Sweden _ who currently holds the EU's rotating presidency _ which explicitly stated that east Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state.

Israeli leaders telephoned politicians in several European nations to press for removal of the passage, said the official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. In the end, the ministers modified the original draft, but still referred to the status of Jerusalem "as the future capital of two states," the official said.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Thursday that Israel should desist from trying to divide the bloc. He insisted that the Tuesday's decision demonstrated that the EU was a "cohesive and clear force" on global issues, including the Middle East.

Bildt comments followed those made by Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who said Wednesday that Sweden wanted to present the EU declaration as its achievement before that country's six-month term as the EU president ended.

"Sweden, which is completing its term as holder of the EU rotating presidency without any achievements or any significant returns, tried toward the end of its term to steal the show and steal the vote. That didn't succeed," Lieberman told Israel Radio.

Bildt shot back Thursday, saying that Israel should not "think that a relationship with Europe is divide and rule."

"You consider some (EU members) good and some bad and then you try to maneuver from that position," Bildt said.

Bildt told lawmakers that EU officials would meet on Friday with representatives of the Palestinian Authority, but that Israel has been unwilling to schedule a similar meeting.

Although the EU has long opposed the annexation of east Jerusalem, Tuesday's statement was sure to deepen Israel's sense that the Europeans favor Palestinian positions.

Sweden and Israel have had a long history of diplomatic spats.

In September, Bildt abruptly called off a visit to Israel during a feud over an unsubstantiated article in a Swedish tabloid that accused Israeli soldiers of harvesting organs from dead Palestinians.

The cancellation came amid a growing gulf between Israel and the international community over West Bank settlement construction.

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AP correspondent Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.