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EU to strengthen political role in Afghanistan

The European Union (EU) will strengthen its presence in Afghanistan, especially its political role there, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in Stockholm on Saturday.

world Updated: Sep 06, 2009 07:35 IST

The European Union (EU) will strengthen its presence in Afghanistan, especially its political role there, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in Stockholm on Saturday.

"We will be in Afghanistan for a long time to come. Our presence is politically oriented," Bildt said at a news conference when the EU foreign ministers concluded their two-day informal meeting in Stockholm.

"On the subject of Afghanistan, we spoke about a strengthened political strategy and strengthening our action there, civil, economic and political action," said Bildt, whose country holds the EU presidency.

Bildt also expressed deep regret over a devastating NATO air raid near the Afghan city of Kunduz on Friday, which Afghan officials said killed at least 150 people, mostly civilians.

"This was a tragedy. I do not think we will win this war by killing," the Swedish foreign minister said.

The EU foreign ministers also paid a big attention to the Middle East peace process.

"We have focused on the Middle East and our concern over the lack of progress in the peace process. We are prepared to do what we can to establish a peace process," Bildt said.

EU foreign policy spokesman Javier Solana, who also participated in the news conference, expressed his hope that progress could soon be achieved in the peace process.

"We have an opportunity now that we must use to move forward," said Solana, who just returned from traveling in the region.

Both of them urged Israel to scrap plans to build new Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

"The plans are illegal and they are an impediment to the peace process," said Bildt.

"We are very disappointed by some of the statements referred to in the last hours," Solana said. "I hope very much that (Israel's plan) will not be realized."