Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Solana hopes for Quartet meeting with Israel, Palestinians and Arab countries

European Jewish Press - 29 March 2007

BRUSSELS (EJP)---Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, has said the Quartet of international Middle East mediators hopes to meet Israel, the Palestinians and four Arab countries for the first time.

“What we would really hope to do before the summer is to get the Quartet together with countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan with the parties to the conflict, the Israelis and the Palestinians,”, Solana told the European Parliament in Brussels during a debate on the EU’s foreign and security policy on Thursday.

The next Quartet meeting, comprising the EU, the US, the UN and Russia, is expected to take place in mid-April.

“This would be Israel’s first meeting with the Quartet as such,”’ Solana said.

He also said that reviving the 2002 Arab peace proposal, currently discussed at an Arab League summit meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and which includes an offer to recognize Israel in exchange for withdrawal to the 1967 border, “could be a fundamental way of giving a new impulsion to the peace process.”


EU meeting on new government

EU foreign ministers are to meet on Friday and Saturday in Bremen, Germany, to take a decision on how to deal with the new Palestinian unity government between Hamas and Fatah and whether to resume direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.

"My position is that there are some people in the new government we know well, and some we don’t know, since they are from Hamas, which is on the list of terrorist organisations, so we don’t talk to them,” Solana declared.

The EU’s top diplomat said the new Palestinian finance minister Salam Fayyad and foreign minister Ziad Abu Amr “were both people the EU had been talking to for years.”

"It would be a mistake to cut off all contact with the people in this government with whom we have worked for many years,” he added.

On resuming financial direct aid to the Palestinians, Solana said: “We should not change policy from one day to next, but if you listen to the new finance minister, that would be a good start in learning how to make our aid as effective as possible both in humanitarian terms and in helping the peace process.”

"Deeds are more important than words. We need to see how new Palestinian government behaves and react on that basis. We could be able to move from crisis management to conflict solution,” he added.

Diplomatic sources in Brussels said France, Spain, Italy and Sweden are seeking a quick resumption of EU aid to the Palestinian Authority while other EU member states insist on linking a resumption of the aid to the new government meeting three conditions: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of past peace agreements.

The EU stopped all direct assistance following the victory of Hamas in parliament elections last year.


Parliament debate

During the debate with Solana, German MEP Martin Schultz, head of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, stressed that “we cannot refuse dialogue with the new national unity government in Palestine just because it includes Hamas.”

British MEP Graham Watson, for the Liberal group, backed Solana’s focus on the Middle East and urged him to “take the initiative” with the new Palestinian government so as “not to lose the opportunity to secure a lasting peace.”

For French MEP Francis Wurtz, of the European left group, “it was the Palestinians themselves and the Arab countries that saved the situation in the Palestinian territories,” adding: ”The international needs to support and recognize the new government.”

British conservative MEP Charles Tannock urged caution over resuming direct aid to the new Palestinian government before Hamas explicitly accepts the three conditions, including recognition of the right of the state of Israel to exist.