EU searching for unity as Palestinians prepare UN recognition bid
The quest for a common European Union response to the Palestinians' upcoming bid for United Nations recognition was expected to dominate a meeting Friday of the bloc's foreign ministers in Sopot, Poland, DPA reported.
Later this month, the Palestinian Authority is intending to ask the United Nations General Assembly for state recognition. It is expected to corral a majority in favour of it, despite strong opposition from the United States and Israel.
Within the EU, opinions are divided, with Germany, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands also hostile to a unilateral Palestinian move. On the other hand France, Spain and Britain have signaled that they would be ready to recognize a Palestinian state.
Diplomats said that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton would attempt to forge a consensus around the so-called "Vatican option," which would see Palestinian territories being recognized as a state but gain only observer status at the UN.
The US and Israel argue that the Palestinians' quest can only be fulfilled through negotiations with the Israelis. The Palestinians have turned away from the process after Israel's continued refusal to halt settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.
EU foreign ministers were also expected to announce the imposition of an oil embargo against Syria - as objections Italy raised earlier this week had been resolved - and discuss the EU's role in post-conflict Libya.
The talks are set to conclude on Saturday, when EU ministers are scheduled to meet counterparts from Turkey, Croatia, Iceland, Montenegro and Macedonia.