5 - 11 September 2002
Issue No. 602
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
Euro road mapCairo welcomed the EU's efforts to activate existing peace ideas to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the European body's rejection of military strikes against Iraq, reports Soha Abdelaty
The long-awaited and long-overdue vision on the situation in the Middle East outlined by US President George W Bush in June was welcomed by many parties concerned about the conflict. But, many insisted, the speech overlooked factors which are imperative to leading the parties back to the path of peace. High on Cairo's list of missing elements was a time-frame and a plan by which the parties might move from one step in the American initiative to the next. The European Union (EU) has stepped into the fray by endorsing the Danish "realistic road map" at an EU meeting in the Danish city of Elsinore.
Denmark's Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, whose country currently holds the EU's presidency, is scheduled to meet President Hosni Mubarak today as part of a regional mission to obtain feedback on his country's ideas. Moeller's tour also included Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories and Israel, and he was expected to consult with Syrian and Lebanese officials by telephone. After integrating the feedback of the aforementioned parties into the European initiative, Moeller will take the modified plan to a Quartet meeting in New York mid-month. The Quartet, which comprises the US, Russia, the EU and the United Nations (UN), will shoulder the responsibility of implementing the plan, if it decides to accept it. At the Quartet's last meeting in July, when the American initiative was discussed, differences arose about the sequence of the necessary steps and obligations of each party. The result was that no time-frame was agreed upon.
The European plan is based on the Arab initiative, endorsed by Arab states in March's summit. The EU plan comprises three phases. In the first, which is to last until Palestinian elections in early 2003, Palestinians and Israelis are to reach a security agreement. This entails restructuring Palestinian security services and a gradual Israeli withdrawal from recently occupied Palestinian territories. The second phase is to last until August 2003 at which point a provisional Palestinian state is to be established. Its provisional borders are to be determined by negotiations among Israel, the Palestinians, the Quartet and moderate Arab states. In this stage the "new" and "reformed" Palestinian Authority (PA) would draft a new constitution. In the final phase, the permanent status issues such as the status of Jerusalem, borders, settlements and refugees, will be tackled in the hope of establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in June 2005.
Egyptian officials, preceded by their Saudi counterparts, endorsed the plan. "Now that we have a road map, I think we can work for a solution that is based on two states, living securely side by side," said Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher on Tuesday after meeting with Moeller. "This is the beginning of a very promising process," Maher said, describing the plan as including several "constructive" elements. "The most interesting part of the plan is that it includes concrete steps for the establishment of a Palestinian state. It is based on an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders," he added, noting that it tackles all of the thorny issues between the two sides, such as Jerusalem, refugees and Palestinian elections.
Lebanon, however, took a more reserved position towards the plan. "The sky has been raining initiatives," Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hamoud told reporters after meeting with Maher on Tuesday, adding that Lebanon will look into it, but "it [the plan] remains in its early stages".
According to Moeller, the plan also includes a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the two sides uphold their obligations. Moeller told Al-Ahram Weekly that the EU will not be sending observers to the region. Arab countries had endorsed the idea of a peacekeeping force but it was rejected by the US on the grounds that the two principle parties should agree on this matter and Israel objects. The top Danish diplomat said that instead, the Egyptian, Jordanian and American consultants who are to be dispatched to the territories to oversee reforms in the Palestinian security apparatus will act as observers and report to the Quartet. He further told reporters after meeting with Maher during his first visit to Cairo this week, that all sides had agreed on the final goal -- two states side-by-side. But at the same time, all sides must agree on how to get there, because "if you differ on the methods, you'll never reach the goal," Moeller said.
Another advantage of the European plan, said Moeller, is that it includes the finer details that have often been overlooked. By handling such issues, said Moeller, "we create mutual trust. The problem in my eyes, is the distrust which is very deep in this region," he told the Weekly.
The EU also took a stance distinct from that of the US on the other hot issue that is at the top of the Arab League's meetings which began yesterday: US strikes against Iraq. Any action against Iraq, said Moeller, should be approved by the Security Council and in turn, the Iraqi regime should allow weapons inspections to resume. This is a position that is welcomed not only by Egypt, but also Iraq. "We call for the implementation of Security Council resolutions," Iraqi Foreign Minister Nagi Sabri said on Tuesday after meeting with Maher. "What they dictate, we implement. The return of the inspectors and the inspection system are part of the council's resolutions," he added.
Egyptian officials agree. "There is an ongoing debate in the US in which there is the argument that there is no basis for military interference [in Iraq]," Maher said on Monday. "Even those who reject the Iraqi regime believe that any intervention should be approved by the Security Council," he added.
Letter from the Editor
|WEEKLY ONLINE: www.ahram.org.eg/weekly
Updated every Saturday at 11.00 GMT, 2pm local time