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EU foreign ministers meet on Mideast, Syria, Mali

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 10, 2012 at 8:19 a.m.

— Europe’s political view of the Mideast has changed profoundly because of Israel’s plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Monday.

Bildt, speaking as European Union foreign ministers gathered to discuss the situation, said the Israeli plans had caused “extreme concern” in the European Union. He referred in particular to the E1 project, which would separate the West Bank from east Jerusalem and drive a wedge between the northern and southern flanks of the West Bank.

“What the Israelis did on E1 has shifted opinions in Europe,” Bildt said as he arrived for the meeting. “I don’t think the Israelis are aware of this.”

The EU views any Israeli settlements on territory occupied during the 1967 Mideast war as a breach of international law.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he expected “the entire EU will be strongly opposed” to the settlement-building.

The 27 EU foreign ministers will also consider the crisis in Syria, where activists say more than 40,000 people have died. Hague said foreign ministers would be briefed by Mouaz al-Khatib, a moderate cleric who heads the new, Western-backed opposition coalition in Syria.

Hard-line Islamist groups in the country have not joined the new coalition, and al-Khatib is expected to inform the EU ministers about attempts to unify the Syrian opposition as the coalition seeks greater diplomatic recognition.

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