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Impasse in Middle East Must Be Tackled, Says Michel

Impasse in Middle East Must Be Tackled, Says Michel

Source: European Parliament, Press Release, August 28, 2001.

A bleak picture of the situation in the Middle East was portrayed by Louis Michel, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, when he spoke as President–in-Office of Council to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy this morning. The situation had deteriorated since his previous visit to the Committee on 10 July, he said, and there seemed to be no end to the cycle of violence. In particular he considered that the seizure by Israel of Orient House - which had served as the Palestinian Authority's headquarters in Jerusalem – breached international law and could only serve to harden attitudes and exacerbate the situation. Equally President Arafat would also need to tackle terrorist acts committed by Palestinians. Both sides needed to respect the principles of international law, he said.

The EU was seeking to achieve a cease-fire and to allow the Mitchell Peace Plan to take effect but it was meeting with inflexible attitudes on both sides. In order to overcome distrust it was essential for the EU to finance and promote "people to people" projects that brought together groups from both sides, such as women, students and parliamentarians. The Minister also believed that the Union needed to work together with the USA and Russia to promote dialogue, with the possibility of a trilateral conference. Mr Michel stressed that American involvement in the process was key as Israel saw the EU as pro-Palestinian – the USA must be persuaded to become more active here, he stressed. He also noted with regret that there was no unanimity within Council on strategy and that policy was therefore based on the lowest common denominator. He rejected the idea of sanctions as he believed that those deploying them knew where to start but not where to end them – they could "explode in the face" of those using them, he cautioned.

Mr Michel recognised the concerns of some MEPs over the possibility of EU funding being provided for textbooks in Palestinian schools that carried an anti-Semitic message. This point was subsequently taken up by the Commission representative who stressed that the EU had not funded the production of any Palestinian school textbooks. The Palestinian Authority had produced its own textbooks for the first time in 2000 and there was no sign of any anti-Semitic content in them. However it was also using textbooks from some other Arab countries and there may have been an anti-Semitic content in some of them.

Following Mr Michel the Committee Chairman Elmar BROK (EPP-ED, D) issued a statement (attached).

Press enquiries: Timothy Boden, (Brussels) tel.(32-2) 28 43459

e-mail : foreign-press@europarl.eu.int

European Parliament: Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy, Brussels, 28 August, 2001.

Press Statement by Mr Elmar BROK, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee

Extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament of 28 August 2001 on the situation in the Middle East

During its extraordinary meeting of 28 August with the President-in-office of Council, Belgian Foreign Minister Michel, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament examined the dramatic developments of the Middle East. The escalation of violence, which is resulting in an increasing number of victims from day to day, is a cause for great concern.

The appeal made by the international community to Israeli and Palestinian authorities to reach an effective and lasting cease-fire which would favour the resumption of dialogue and a climate of mutual trust, must be accepted by the decision-makers of the two parties. The presence of international observers, which would be a very useful contribution towards this, should be urgently accepted by both sides.

The Foreign Affairs Committee

  • Reiterates its support for the Mitchell Report proposals;
  • Expresses its deep support for the initiatives of the European Union, of the High Representative for the CFSP, of the Permanent Representative in the Middle East and several national governments, which aim to facilitate the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians;
  • Invites the President of the European Parliament to request a statement by the Council and the Commission during the September part-session in Strasbourg;
  • Asks the Conference of Presidents to send a very high-level Parliament delegation to the region in order to meet the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, to convey to them and their public opinion the message of peace and to show them the willingness to contribute towards the relaunching of reliable negotiations between the two parties.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).