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By Lisa Bryant
Paris
30 December 2008 

French FM Kouchner (R), Spanish FM Moratinos and Greek FM Bakoyannis arrive for an urgent meeting on Gaza in Paris, 30 Dec 2008
French FM Kouchner (R), Spanish FM Moratinos and Greek FM Bakoyannis arrive for an urgent meeting on Gaza in Paris, 30 Dec 2008
The European Union, or EU, is calling on Israel to observe a humanitarian truce after a four-day Israeli air offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of France, which currently heads the EU, hosted a meeting in Paris on Tuesday aimed at resolving the crisis. Kouchner told French television he is pushing for a lasting truce.

Spain's Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, told reporters the Europe Union's immediate goal is to secure a cease-fire between Israel and the militant Palestinian group Hamas. The Europeans are particularly looking for a humanitarian truce.

Their call for a cease-fire joins that of the United States, which said Hamas must respect the truce. Meanwhile, Persian Gulf Arab ministers have strongly condemned Israel's actions in the conflict.

Earlier Tuesday, the EU's executive arm called on Israel and Hamas to cease all attacks affecting civilians and let humanitarian aid into the impoverished Gaza Strip.

But Robin Lowe, a Middle East expert at Chatham House, a London-based public policy institute, said the Europeans have limited diplomatic clout.

"The European Union countries have a fairly weak voice in this conflict. Many of them wish that was stronger and they're all full of ideas and good intentions to help find a quick and peaceful resolution. But the difficulty is that neither side [Israel or Hamas] is at all minded to listening to the Europeans," he said.

The Europeans are also divided, with many countries historically sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. But the Czech Republic, which takes over the EU rotating presidency from France on January 1, has defended Israel's air strikes on Gaza in retaliation for Hamas rocket fire.
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