Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Middle East

Delivered in Plenary - September 24th 2003

Mr President

The tragedy of the Arab-Israeli conflict is never too far from our minds or TV screens, and the carefully constructed roadmap now seems to have virtually imploded. Serious mistakes have been made. Clearly the Palestinian Authority was unable or unwilling to rein in the excesses of Islamic and other terrorist groups, as we have seen in the Hamas suicide bomb a month ago in Jerusalem.

In this context, I welcome the EU's belated banning of the political wing of Hamas from fund-raising in its territory. I also believe that the undermining by Chairman Arafat of Prime Minister Abu Mazin has further muddied the waters, and lends credibility to those who argue that Arafat has no interest in going the last mile for peace and security if he is not at centre stage.

However, coded calls for his assassination recently by Israel's Deputy Prime Minister are not helpful, as he was recognised as the elected PA Chairman, and this lowers the moral tone of the debate. Our challenge is to encourage reformists and moderate interlocutors amongst the Palestinians. I met Dr Nasebi two weeks ago in Brussels and he is clearly an example of the type of Palestinian who is acting in good faith and prepared to make compromises, including over the vexed issue of the right of return and the final status of Jerusalem.

Both issues can be solved with imaginative thinking and money. The international community needs to redouble its efforts to reconvene the roadmap to enable a two-state solution with a viable contiguous state of Palestine, based approximately on the 1967 borders, and a secure Israel living in peaceful, neighbourly coexistence. Otherwise, Islamic fundamentalists throughout the world will use this conflict to galvanise the Islamic world against the West, using it as a pretext to justify worldwide terrorist attacks. Unlike my colleague, Mr Cushnahan, I am not yet convinced that an international military force is the solution needed to end the hostilities and kick-start the peace process, as I do not think that a totally neutral force could ever be assembled.

Incidentally, I have been involved in Parliament's working group looking at EU funding to the Palestinian Authority, which is proceeding on schedule. It has been a worthwhile exercise in addressing so many of our taxpayers' concerns about serious allegations of misappropriation of funds, and now we have in place the appropriate mechanisms for scrutiny of the way these monies are being spent.