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Source: European Union (EU)
10 July 2007

10 Mediterranean EU States’ foreign ministers write open letter to Tony Blair
Open letter to Tony Blair from the ten Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Mediterranean members States of the European Union, published in "Le Monde" newspaper
[Released by the French Embassy in the U.K.]

Paris, 10 July 2007

Dear Tony,

After ten years spent serving Britain, and while the world was already regretting your leaving front-line politics, you have just accepted a mission which is more complex, even more impossible than all those you had tackled until now. Impossible? The task, effectively, would be enough to discourage anyone.

On top of the seemingly endless conflict between Israel and the Palestinians there is today a stack of hostile factors: the Hamas takeover by force in Gaza, of course, Israel’s domestic political difficulties, the United States wait-and-see policy, Europe’s lack of conviction – despite Javier Solana’s commendable action – and, above all, this terrible feeling of impotence, which seems to be taking hold of the whole international community.

Yes, there does seem to be something to be discouraged about. And yet, in welcoming your decision to accept this mission, we can’t help feeling an improbable optimism. First of all, because we know your courage, your sense of the common good and your determination. But also because the scale of the crisis has led to a salutary awakening, which seems, paradoxically, to have at last made progress possible.

Topping this analysis – we might as well admit it straightaway – is the recognition of a shared failure we can no longer ignore: the "roadmap" has failed. The status quo which has prevailed since 2000 is leading nowhere, as we know. The overly strict conditions we have habitually imposed as prerequisites for the resumption of the peace process have only made the situation worse. The international community’s nervousness about doing anything at all has caused too much damage.

This negative appraisal compels us to change our approach. Above all it allows us to broaden our outlook. It’s Europe’s duty to say this to its Israeli and Palestinian friends.

Since if we agree to a change of perspective, if we dare look at the situation with fresh eyes, the present situation also offers its share of opportunities. We shall mention two.

For a start, Hamas’ takeover of Gaza. From this defeat can emerge a hope. Indeed the risk of civil war in the West Bank, the threats of Palestine’s de facto partition and a return to the pre-1967 Jordanian and Egyptian scenarios may prompt an injection of momentum. On his own, because of his tenacious encouragement of peace and dialogue and courageous denouncement of terrorism, the President of the Palestinian Authority gives us grounds for optimism. Another reason for hope: the determined involvement of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Qatar alongside Egypt and Jordan. With their substantial resources, these new protagonists are capable of providing crucially important aid.

These two factors, dear Tony, allow us to lay down revised objectives. Based on a new dialogue between the Quartet and the Follow-up Group of the Arab League (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the Emirates), involving the two parties (Messrs Olmert and Abbas), we think it reasonable for there to be four such objectives:

- Offer a hope, a genuine political solution to the region’s peoples. This has to involve negotiations without prerequisites on the final status, even if it means acting in successive phases. Embracing the issues of Jerusalem, the refugees and the borders, these negotiations will make it possible to set a shared realistic objective.

- Take account of Israel’s need for security. The idea of a robust international force, of the NATO or UN chapter VII type, is worth considering. It would be able fully legitimately to maintain order in the territories and enforce compliance with a necessary ceasefire. The risks are, of course, high, but this force can be viable and secure if we comply with two conditions: it must operate alongside a peace plan without taking its place and be based on an inter-Palestinian agreement.

- Obtain from Israel concrete and immediate measures to help Mahmoud Abbas. These must include the transfer of all the taxes owed, release of the thousands of prisoners without blood on their hands, the release too of the main Palestinian leaders to ensure the succession within Fatah, the freezing of the settlement policy and removal of wildcat outposts. None of these measures can be disputed for security reasons. Europe, the Quartet must tell Israel this firmly and as a staunch friend. It’s too late to prevaricate.

- Don’t push Hamas to up the stakes. This means reopening the border between Gaza and Egypt, facilitating movement between Gaza and Israel, and encouraging Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as President Mubarak has proposed, to help get the resumption of the dialogue between Hamas and Fatah.

These four objectives are within our grasp. Despite the tragic circumstances, despite the wounds and hatred, the opportunity is a historic one – maybe the last one.

We know your inventiveness and your resolve. So we are certain that you will be able to deal comprehensively with these problems. Hence the importance of convening without any further delay an international conference including all the parties to the conflict.

You have, dear Tony, the extraordinary privilege of soon being able to help make a reality of what had until now been only an idea: two States, Israeli and Palestinian, living side by side in peace and security.

I can tell you that, every day of your mission, you will be able to rely on our unfailing support and commitment.

Signed by the ten Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Mediterranean States of the European Union, meeting on 6 July in Portoroz (Slovenia)

Ivailo Kalfin, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria

Yiorgos Lillikas, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus

Miguel-Ángel Moratinos, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain

Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France

Theodora Bakoyiannis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece

Massimo D’Alema, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy

Michael Frendo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta

Luis Amado, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal

Andrei Cioroianu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania

and Dimitrij Rupel, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia

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