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Date posted: June 09, 2007
By Javier Solana

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy

Brussels, 6 June 2007

Let me respond to the comments of the parliamentary group leaders. Most of their interventions have essentially followed the line that we have been defending for some time. That is that the moment has come to move on from a policy of crisis management - which is very important but is not sufficient - to a policy, together with crisis management, of conflict resolution. We need to work for a political horizon that will really start to lead to a solution to the conflict that started 40 years ago. That is something that we are trying to do in the coming days.

When I told you that the Quartet met in Berlin last Wednesday I said that, for the first time, the Quartet is committed to starting to work for a political horizon. That means that before the end of this month we will meet - the Quartet as such, together with the Palestinians and the Israelis - in order to push forward the dialogue that is still at a very preliminary stage between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. These are the two people who should find the way to peace. It is our obligation to push and to catalyse this process and that is what we are going to do. That is what is written very clearly in the statement issued by the Quartet last Wednesday.

I think that this is a profound change and I would like to underline that because when somebody said: "are we going to wait passively for the catastrophe to arrive?" the answer is no! We are not going to do that, we do not want to do that, you don't want to do that, the people in the region do not want to do that. Therefore, the leaders of the Quartet are trying to push forward this mechanism to move on towards a resolution.

A few other ideas were raised by the parliamentary group leaders. There is the question of an international force. Let me say that for the first time in many, many years, the idea of an international force is not off the agenda. It has, as you know, been presented by members of the Knesset saying that the time may have come to call for an international force, which could, at least in the beginning, have a peacekeeping role, patrolling the border in the south, in the so-called Philadelphi Corridor where, as you know, the Rafah border crossing point is located. The Israelis are also considering that possibility, as are the Palestinians and the Egyptians, with differing intensity. This clearly needs further discussion.

This links up with what Mrs Napoletano said about the success of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The fact that an international force - whose backbone is European, as you know - has been responsible for the application of the UN Security Council resolution has led some in the Israeli government and in the Knesset and in Israel as a whole to think that a model of that nature could perhaps also be applied elsewhere. So, we have to link all the issues together. What we have learned from our presence in Lebanon is that it may be possible to apply the model elsewhere, perhaps to provide a monitoring presence which would be absolutely necessary if we want to the peace process to come to fruition.

I would like to emphasise again, as regards Lebanon, that the United Nations Security Council Resolution on the creation of the tribunal is very important. The reaction to it has been very negative in Syria but the international tribunal is not against any person or any country. It is a tribunal to be set up in order to determine who is responsible for the killing of a good man, a friend of many of ours, Mr Hariri, who was assassinated in a manner that has to be clarified if we want to have peace and reconciliation in Lebanon. The European Union will therefore be working for that.

I would like to say once again that what we have done, working very determinedly, to mobilize the Quartet in the direction that it is taking now is something that has many fathers and many mothers but you can be sure that the Europeans have been working very hard from the very beginning to arrive at this point. Let us hope that we are able to continue working in that direction. I hope to have in the coming period of time, which will be difficult, the support, help and understanding of the European Parliament.

In response to further comments during the debate by Members of the European Parliament, let me say that we are debating a very important issue, the Middle East, and that although the situation is very difficult, this is a time of hope, which has not existed for a long time. I have been involved in the Middle East for many years. I was at the Madrid Conference and at the last Camp David Conference. And not since Camp David have I perceived us to be any closer than I feel we are today to the beginning of a real, meaningful communication and exchange and therefore to the beginning of a political horizon.

There are three reasons for this: one is the Arab League Initiative, which we did not have at the time of Camp David. Secondly, 40 years have elapsed. I think everybody is exhausted, psychologically, physically and politically. Out of this exhaustion, I think that we have to muster new psychological and political energy in order to move forward. And, thirdly, we have a mechanism, the Quartet, comprising the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and the Russian Federation. For the first time, we have the United States and the European Union at the same negotiating table with the parties.

I believe that all these elements change the horizon. We must try to move on, and not to falter. We cannot achieve a solution to all the problems in 24 hours, or by the end of the month. But we have the opportunity to move the peace process forward.

And, as a final thought, I want to stress that we must be proud of ourselves, as members of the European Union. If you go to Palestine, as you do, you hear criticism. But probably, if you really talk in depth to the Palestinians and Israelis, you will find a growing sympathy and understanding for the way in which the Europeans are doing things. I think that we Europeans have to recognise this every now and then. Otherwise we will never move forward collectively, as we need to do.

Moving this process forward is an effort for everybody. We have an opportunity. Let us see whether, next time we meet, we see progress. We will not see the solution but les us see whether we make progress.

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