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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 territories
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 Mahmoud Abbas.

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 Eisin said.

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 yesterday.

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.

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