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EU, Arab Countries Call on Palestinians to Unite


European Union foreign ministers meeting with their Arab counterparts in Brussels on Sunday called for the two rival Palestinian factions to unite to negotiate a lasting peace with Israel.

The European Union foreign ministers said it was critical that the rival Hamas and Fatah political factions reconcile, so the border crossings of the Gaza Strip can be opened for humanitarian and other assistance after three weeks of conflict with Israel.

European politicians said it is essential for the Palestinians to speak with a single voice.

Gaza medics say some 1,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,000 were wounded during the Israeli offensive on Gaza that also killed more than a dozen Israelis, most of them soldiers. Thousands of Palestinian homes were destroyed.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana leaves on Monday for the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Israel to help push for a peace in the region.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Solana said the EU supported Egyptian mediation efforts to cobble a cease-fire between the warring sides.

"We support all the efforts Egypt has been doing - has done - and we wait to see the results," said Javier Solana. "Allow me to say that we continue doing that and our policy has not changed."

Sunday's ministerial meeting in Brussels, which included foreign ministers from those regions along with Turkey, aimed to get Arab backing for a peace initiative.

EU foreign ministers are expected to meet again on Monday to discuss progress toward peace in the Mideast as well as how to bolster the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and how to begin rebuilding the war-torn Gaza Strip after the conflict. The EU is the largest foreign donor to the Palestinian territories.

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