European Union countries at talks in the Czech Republic have agreed in principle on the need to strengthen ties with Syria.They urged Israel’s Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the Palestinian quest for statehood. EU-Israel ties came under strain in January, after Israel’s assault on Gaza following Hamas rocket attacks. The bloc also said it is ready to step up its presence in Afghanistan. High Representative Javier Solana: “We have now nine civilian missions on three continents in the world with more than 5,000 people engaged, and in that direction we have the commitment to continue in Afghanistan.” The EU’s External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said she might announce new funds for Afghanistan next week. Referring to the existing European mission of just a few hundred staff training Afghan security forces, Germany’s foreign minister, to bolster the United States’ new strategy in the region, said “the support could indeed be more extensive”.