israel and the eu - a covenant with many

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    EU, Israel agree on plan to forge closer ties
    Press Trust of India

    Brussels, December 14.

    Israel and the European Union (EU) have agreed on plans to forge closer ties on issues ranging from fighting terrorism to promoting free trade as part of the EU's efforts to strengthen relations with neighbouring countries.

    Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on Monday said the deal would bring "real and tangible benefits" to trade and political links.

    Shalom and Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, agreed to the new plan during a regular meeting of their association council.

    Shalom said that despite many disagreements in the past, EU and Israel were working more closely in fighting terrorism, and reiterated calls for the EU to place the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah on its terrorist blacklist.

    Relations between the 25-nation bloc and Israel had been strained in recent years over how to bring peace to the Middle East.

    But Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, said relations had improved.

    "The atmosphere has changed," Solana said. "Let's hope that it will bring better relations between Israel and the EU."

    Israel was the first country to sign up to the EU's new 'European Neighbourhood' policy. The project seeks to improve ties with Moldova, Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

    The bilateral deals are aimed at making Europe more secure by bringing stability and prosperity to volatile regions near its borders.
 
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