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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Prediction 14: Possible
EU troop movements to Israel and/or the Middle East
Europe seeks force to police PA
The Peninsula - Qatar
LJUBLJANA • European foreign ministers from 10 Mediterranean countries
are seeking to create an international force to police the Palestinian
territories, the Slovenian foreign ministry said yesterday.
The ministers are proposing to create a “robust international force like
those of Nato or the UN”, according to an open letter to Tony Blair —
recently-named special envoy for the diplomatic quartet pushing for
Middle East peace — released by the Slovenian ministry.
“The risks are high, of course, but this force can be viable and
reliable if we respect two conditions: that it accompanies a peace plan
without replacing it and that it is supported by an inter-Palestinian
agreement,” said the letter from the 10 ministers.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner launched the initiative last
week during an informal meeting in Slovenia of foreign ministers from EU
countries on the Mediterranean basin.
“The road map has failed. The status quo that has prevailed since 2000
is leading to nothing,” the ministers said in their letter, published in
French daily Le Monde.
The ministers said there was a need to “redefine our objectives”, adding
that Europe and the Quartet of Middle East mediators should firmly tell
Israel to make more concessions in support of Palestinian President
The ministers said one of their new objectives was “to obtain from
Israel concrete and immediate measures in favour of Mahmoud Abbas.
“Among these, the transfer of all taxes due, the release of the
thousands of prisoners who do not have blood on their hands, the release
as well of the main Palestinian leaders to ensure succession within
Fatah, a freeze in new settlements and the evacuation of unauthorised
settlements,” they said.
The European ministers called for the reopening of Gaza’s southern
border with Egypt, to ease movement between Gaza and Israel, and to
encourage Saudi Arabia and Egypt to reestablish dialogue between Hamas
and Abbas’ Fatah party, the Slovenian ministry said.
The foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta,
Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Romania took part in last week’s meeting.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokeswoman said
yesterday that Olmert would meet Abbas next week to discuss security
cooperation and humanitarian needs in the Palestinian territories.
“(Olmert and Abbas) will be meeting next week, but there is no time or
venue set. They will discuss ongoing things like security and
humanitarian issues, but also political horizons,” spokeswoman Miri
Senior Palestinian officials also said that no date had been set for the
meeting. The upcoming meeting is expected to take place as early as
Israeli officials said on Sunday that an Arab League delegation from
Egypt and Jordan had proposed visiting Israel this week for long-delayed
talks on an Arab peace initiative.
The Quartet of Middle East negotiators — the United States, United
Nations, European Union and Russia — will also hold talks in the region
on July 16, but it is unclear if Olmert and Abbas will attend.