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EU says it is Not Time to Recognize Palestinian State

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The European Union has followed the United States in saying it is not ready to recognize Palestinian statehood, after Palestinian leaders declared they would seek that status at the United Nations.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, said the time is not right for recognizing a Palestinian state.

"I do not think we are there yet," he said. "I would hope that we would be in a position to recognize a Palestinian state, but there has to be one first. So I think that is somewhat premature. We have said previously if you go back to what the European Union has said that we would be in a position to recognize a Palestinian state, but the conditions are not there as of yet."

Bildt said the European Union is discussing other steps to increase support for Palestinian aspirations. And at a press conference later in the day, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana offered strong backing for an eventual Palestinian state.

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"I do not think it is too early to have a Palestinian state. We would [have liked] to have a Palestinian state years back," Solana said. "The point is ... you know the negotiations have failed so far. [But a Palestinian state] is something the European Union has been defending for years back."

Palestinian leaders have said they would seek statehood recognition from the U.N. Security Council for an area comprising the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. But they have not set a date for this and the United states says any future Palestinian state must be the fruit of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Talks between the two sides have reached an impasse in recent months, despite Washington's efforts to revive them. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has also tried to re-ignite the peace process, holding discussions in recent days with Israeli, Syrian and Palestinian leaders.