Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Middle East Situation

Delivered in Plenary - 7th September 2005

Mr President

The Middle East, as ever, remains of great concern. But there are also some grounds for optimism, as we witness the first multi-candidate presidential election in Egypt today.

The ongoing terrorist campaign in Iraq, of course, still poses a serious threat to stability in the region. Iraq is about to have its first democratic constitution, which, although lacking support from the Sunni community, as least has on board the Shias and the Kurds, has avoided an Islamic theocracy, and kept women involved in the process. October may see a rejection of the constitution by the Sunnis, but they will then have to get involved in the resulting parliamentary elections and the next constitutional draft, or face a fragmentation of Iraq, in which they will eventually lose out.

Syria must play a more responsible role in apprehending terrorists crossing from its territory into Iraq. Iran must stay out of Iraqi affairs. Having ended its nine-month freeze on uranium enrichment, it is now on a collision path with the United States and the EU, a case likely to end in the United Nations Security Council, where I hope Russia and China will also support tough, non-proliferation measures or sanctions, if need be.

Israel is to be commended for its peaceful withdrawal from Gaza, which must now rapidly fall under the control of the Palestinian Authority, although the assassination of Moussa Arafat augurs badly. It is understandable that border controls with Egypt will require Israeli and international monitoring for security reasons for some time to come. Let us now hope that all the parties can come together to get the roadmap for peace back on the road. The Palestinian parliamentary elections in January will, of course, be telling.

Lebanon, following Syria's withdrawal, seems to be settling after its elections and arrests have now been made in connection with the assassination of Rafik Hariri, apparently confirming the suspicion of the involvement of the pro-Syrian security forces. We all wish the United Nations investigator, Mr Detlev Mehlis, every success in bringing those guilty to justice.