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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: European Union (EU)
13 February 2005







11-13 FEBRUARY 2005


Panel on 'Security in the Middle East: New challenges for NATO and the EU'

For Europe, the Middle East is our immediate neighbourhood. Many factors tie us together: history, economic links, shared interests and close personal relationships. EU engagement with the region is deep and has a long history. For years, including the most difficult periods, we have actively supported the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This year, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Barcelona process. And we are fast expanding our relationship with the Gulf Co-operation Council.

The reason for this engagement is simple: security in the Middle East has a direct impact on security in Europe. Our fates are tied together. Moreover, the Middle East is increasingly present in our city centres, not just on the other side of the Mediterranean. Violence and instability in the Middle East has knock-on effects on the streets of Europe.

Politics is about changing things, not merely managing the status quo. We need to tackle both new and old challenges. It is clear that there are no quick fixes to the many problems of the Middle East. But equally that is no reason for procrastination.

The agenda for action is clear. We need to proceed on three tracks:

1. The Middle East Peace Process.

2. Iraq.

3. Iran.

1. The Middle East Peace Process.

The success of the Sharm al-Sheikh summit has highlighted that this is indeed a moment of opportunity. The watchwords of the Palestinian Presidential elections were dignity and hope. We also have a new Israeli government. And a formal ceasefire is now in place. Both sides are taking brave decisions, and both peoples are yearning for peace. But many challenges still remain: Israel's disengagement from Gaza will be a huge challenge. Palestinian militants and settlers can be expected to become more active as the implementation of Gaza disengagement approaches. Israelis need reassurance on security. Palestinians need reassurance that Gaza first does not become Gaza only, which would seriously weaken President Abbas and his agenda of peace and reform.

Everyone – Israelis, Palestinians, Europeans, Americans and the Arab neighbours – has a shared interest in making Gaza disengagement a success. This means hard work by all of us on security and law and order. But there must be an equal effort on how we can improve the catastrophic economic and social situation across the Palestinian territories. We therefore need rapid progress on jobs, social services and rebuilding of infrastructure.

Moreover, for the Gaza disengagement plan to work, we need to give a political perspective to the Palestinians. They need to know that our collective aim remains the same: a negotiated two-state solution, ending the occupation that began in 1967.

It is probably too soon to jump-start final status negotiations. But at minimum both sides must refrain from unilateral actions which prejudice the outcome of these negotiations, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said again last weekend.


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