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7 June 2007
Brussels Plenary 6-7 June: Constitution, Middle East, Visas
Wednesday in Plenary: Constitution, Middle-East, Visas
Middle East: "40 years of suffering on both sides"
Javier Solana briefed MEPs on his view of the situation as it stands in the region amid renewed violence between Israel and the Palestinians and in Lebanon. He told Members that "we've faced 40 years of suffering from both sides...we can look back at the past and see what mistakes we've made, or we can look at the future".
Although painting a stark picture of the situation he did express some optimism that the time may be right for progress towards peace. Indeed he said that not since the 2000 Camp David talks has there been a better time for peace.
He stressed three reasons why he thought this the case. The first was that an Arab peace was now in place. This refers to the Saudi Plan endorsed by the Arab league this year that would see Israel return to its 1967 borders in return for peace treaties and recognition from Arab states. The second factor Mr Solana noted was the psychological importance of the 40th anniversary of the six day war. Finally he said that for the first time the EU was strongly represented at the negotiating table.
Reaction of MEPs: "situation in region a nightmare"
José Salafranca for the Parliament's largest political group the European People's Party and European Democrats called for the Palestinian government to "commit itself to democracy and the renunciation of violence". He went on to say that the EP should present a united front and support the work of the Quartet.
What the region needs is an international buffer force to prevent further violence in Gaza according to Pasqualina Napolitano of the PSE group. She also called for the EU to support the Palestinian National Unity Government openly.
This theme of support for the Palestinian authorities was picked up by Brian Crowley for the Union of Europe for the Nations Group (UEN). He said the EU "had sent the wrong signal" when it cut money to the Palestinians following the election of Hamas deputies. The Greens/EFA speaker backed this point calling for financial aid to the Palestinians. He said that " Israel had won the six-day war, but lost the 40-year peace".
The leaders of Parliament's respective delegations to the region also spoke. The Chair of the delegation to Israel Jana Hybášková stressed "we face not only 'Iraqisation' but also 'Iranization' in the Middle East. Extremist groups are endangering citizens as well as the peace process," she said.
Kyriacos Triantaphyllides - chair of the delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council - expressed his solidarity with "our Palestinian colleagues imprisoned by Israel", referring to the fact Israel has detained 45 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the last year.
The Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner asked for the release of both Palestinian and Israeli political prisoners, as well as BBC journalist Alan Johnston and for funds to the Palestinian Authority to be released by Israel.
The vote on a resolution on the Middle East will take place during the next plenary session in Strasbourg later this month.