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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Prediction 14: Possible
EU troop movements to Israel and/or the Middle East
Rome conference endorses UN force in
By Mark Beunderman
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - A high-profile international conference on the
Middle East, attended by a top-level EU delegation, has under US
pressure not called for an immediate ceasefire in the region - but has
endorsed the idea of a peacekeeping force "under a UN mandate."
The extraordinary meeting in Rome, chaired by Italian foreign minister
Massimo d'Alema, addressed the ongoing bloodshed between Israel and
Islamist Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, with US foreign secretary
Condoleezza Rice and UN secretary general Kofi Annan participating in
Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, as well as Lebanon
itself, were also present at the talks and had lobbied for the final
declaration of the text to include a call for an immediate cease-fire,
according to press reports.
But the final Rome declaration only offers a watered-down version of
this demand, stating "Participants expressed their determination to work
immediately to reach, with utmost urgency, a ceasefire that puts an end
to the current violence and hostilities. The ceasefire must be lasting,
permanent and sustainable."
Ms Rice stressed after the talks that "we cannot return to the status
quo ante" and that any ceasefire must be "sustainable this time,"
reflecting US demands that Israel should be given security guarantees
against Hezbollah before a cease-fire.
The EU attended with a top delegation from both the EU institutions as
well as individual member states.
Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja represented the bloc's current
presidency and was accompanied by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana
as well as external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
The EU's big three, France, Germany and the UK, also had a place around
the table, as well as Mediterranean member states Spain, Greece and
The EU was itself divided at the meeting, with France joining UN chief
Kofi Annan in calling for an immediate ceasefire while the UK was more
in line with the US, according to press reports.
EU calls emergency meeting
The Finnish presidency has scheduled an emergency meeting of EU foreign
ministers next week on Tuesday (1 August), while member states' EU
ambassadors will spend most of their time on the issue at a meeting
tomorrow (27 July).
Member states have been more united in supporting a UN-led peace force
which should secure the Israeli-Lebanese border in the near future.
The Rome meeting confirmed this plan, with the declaration saying "An
international force in Lebanon should urgently be authorized under a UN
mandate to support a Lebanese armed force to provide a secure
France's president Jacques Chirac in an interview on Wednesday (26 July)
opposed the idea of a NATO-led peace force, amid reports that Jerusalem
favours NATO over UN involvement.
"As far as France is concerned, it is not NATO's mission to put together
such a force," Mr Chirac told the daily newspaper Le Monde. "Whether we
like it or not, NATO is perceived as the armed wing of the west in these
regions, and as a result, in terms of image, NATO is not intended for
The peacekeeping force is likely to be the one dominating topic at the
EU meeting next week with EU top diplomat Solana saying "I cannot
imagine the force without any Europeans".
"It is fundamental that some European countries will participate", he