18.4. engage in further democratic reforms and pursue the democratic transformation of the country.
19. The Assembly strongly urges the leaders of Hamas to comply with requirements of the international community concerning the commitment to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements.
20. The Assembly calls on the international community, in particular the Quartet and the European Union to:
20.1. step up their efforts aimed at achieving a lasting political solution;
20.2. support the idea launched by the European Parliament (EP) to convene a Conference on Security and Co-operation in the Middle East;
20.3. examine closely the proposal of the EP to create a Euro-Mediterranean Development Fund;
20.4. contribute generously to the reconstruction of Lebanon.
21. The Assembly calls on the Parliaments of the region including Iran to contribute to regional stability and to engage in a meaningful dialogue.
22. The Assembly resolves to pursue the dialogue engaged with the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), and step up efforts aimed at facilitating contacts between members of the PLC and the Knesset.
23. At the same time the Assembly asks the Political Affairs Committee to explore the possibilities of initiating a meaningful dialogue on a parliamentary level with the Parliaments of the broader region.
B. Chronology of the events in the Middle East
Chronology of events in Lebanon
Over a long period of time: Hezbollah launches rockets into northern Israel.
July 12, 2006: Hezbollah militants in Lebanon conduct a raid into Israel, capture two Israeli soldiers and kills eight, prompting first Israeli ground operation into Lebanon since its 2000 pull-out.
July 13, 2006: Israeli planes bomb Beirut airport and other areas across Lebanon, killing at least 44 civilians in air strikes across Lebanon. Two Israelis are killed, more than 35 wounded by Hezbollah rockets which hit Haifa.
July 14, 2006: Israel bombs Beirut home of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. Israel sets conditions to end offensive: halt rocket attacks, release its soldiers, and implement UN resolution calling for Hezbollah's disarmament.
July 15, 2006: Hezbollah attacks Israeli war ship.
July 16, 2006: Rocket fired by Hezbollah hits Haifa. Israeli warplanes drop bombs on central Beirut, its suburbs and a major power station.
July 17, 2006: Hezbollah rejects Israeli terms for a cease-fire. UN secretary-general Kofi Annan calls for end to hostilities, suggests UN "stabilisation force" along Lebanon-Israel border.
July 20, 2006: Israeli troops cross Lebanese land border.
July 21, 2006: Israel calls up thousands more troops, warns of possible invasion of Lebanon. Israeli raids hit Baalbeck and Tyre. Rockets hit north Israel town of Haifa. Hezbollah rejects UN plan for immediate halt to hostilities and release of two Israeli soldiers.
July 22, 2006: Israel masses thousands more reservists on Lebanese border. The total number of casualties amounts to 350 Lebanese and 34 Israelis. (Source, BBC News)
July 23, 2006: Hezbollah continues to launch rockets into northern Israel, killing two people in one attack on the city of Haifa. Israel conducts air strikes on Beirut and Tyre.
July 29, 2006: An Israeli air strike on southern Lebanese town of Qana collapses a building, killing 28 people. Hezbollah launches 157 rockets into northern Israel.
August 2, 2006: Hezbollah launches more than 210 rockets into northern Israel, the highest daily number in the conflict. About 10,000 Israeli troops move into southern Lebanon, where they conduct house-to-house searches for Hezbollah fighters.
August 4, 2006: Israeli jets bomb bridges on a coastal highway north of Beirut. Israel hits the Sohmor power station, cutting electricity to Bekaa Valley and south Lebanon. Hezbollah fires 220 rockets at Israel, including one at Hadera, 40 kilometres north of Tel Aviv.
August 5, 2006: Israeli forces attack suspected Hezbollah guerrillas in Tyre. Hezbollah fires more rockets into Israel.
August 6, 2006: About 80 missiles hit towns across northern Israel. Hezbollah also sends rockets into Haifa. Israeli air strikes and artillery hit southern Lebanon. The UN Security Council debates the draft resolution demanding “full cessation of hostilities”, but Lebanon, Iran and Syria reject it.
August 10, 2006: The Israeli army pushes up to 10 kilometres into southern Lebanon. Hezbollah fires 110 rockets into northern Israel, killing an Arab Israeli woman and her daughter.
August 12, 2006: The United Nations Security Council votes unanimously for a resolution calling for a "full cessation of hostilities". The resolution calls on Hezbollah to stop all attacks immediately and Israel to end "all offensive operations". It also authorises the deployment of a 15,000-strong peacekeeping force.
August 14, 2006: Cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah.
The total number of casualties on both sides is as follows:
- Israel has carried out more than 5000 air strikes over Lebanon, and fired artillery shells into southern Lebanon, killing 1100 Lebanese, in majority civilians, and wounding thousands. Israel authorities assert to have killed 530 members of Hezbollah.
- Hezbollah has fired over 4000 rockets into Israel, killing 40 Israeli civilians and 117 militaries, and wounding hundreds more. (Sources: Le Monde and l’Actualité des droits de l’homme )
September 7, 2006: Israeli begins ending Lebanon air blockade and will continue naval blockade until international forces arrive. UNIFIL will be composed as follows:
- Italy: 2450 soldiers
- France: 2000 soldiers
- Spain: 1100 soldiers
- Turkish: 900 soldiers
- Poland: 500 soldiers
- Belgium: 400 soldiers
- Portugal: 150 soldiers
- Finland, Norway and Swedish: 250 soldiers
- Germany, Netherlands and Greece: naval units.
Chronology of events in the Palestine Authority since Tony Blair’s visit
9 September 2006: Visit of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to the Middle East. Meting with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, who declares that he intends to hold a meeting with Palestinian President Abbas.
10 September 2006: Mr Blair has a meeting with Mr Abbas in Ramallah, supports the idea of a Palestinian government of national union and proposes a resumption of dialogue with Hamas.
11 September 2006: Palestinian Prime Minister Haniyeh and President Abbas reach agreement on a policy programme for a forthcoming government of national union.
12 September 2006: Mr Abbas declares his intention to dissolve the government within 48 hours and to ask the current Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, to form a new government of national unity. In order to renew its cooperation with the Palestinian government, the European Union requests the Hamas to recognise Israel’s right to exist, to accept existing agreements and to renounce violence.
13 September 2006: Mr Abbas obtains a green light from Hamas to negotiate with Israel.
21 September 2006: Mr Abbas said at the General Assembly of the United Nations that any national unity government he negotiated with the Hamas would recognise Israel's right to exist and renounce violence.
22 September 2006: The Hamas rejects the proposition of Mr Abbas to form a national unity government that recognise Israel’s right to exist.
C. Explanatory memorandum, by Mr Lindblad, Rapporteur
1. The Parliamentary Assembly has been following the situation in the Middle East with utmost attention and concern for a long time. In reaction to different developments over the last years, it has held several debates under ordinary and urgent procedures and adopted numerous recommendations and resolutions, the most recent one dating from April 2006.1
2. The Political Affairs Committee has been particularly involved in the question of the Middle East, which is virtually a standing item on its agenda. Its Sub-Committee on the Middle East has visited the region on several occasions and organised the hearings
3. The content of successive recommendations and resolutions, as well as the conclusions of different visits and hearings have been very similar over the last years, due to the fact that the central issue – unfortunately – remains the same.
4. The main focus and outcome of any debate in the Assembly has been to make known the Assembly’s position, to call on all parties to stop the violence and come back to the negotiation table and to urge the international community, particularly the Quartet, to take its share of responsibility and actively contribute to the peaceful settlement of the conflict.
5. Whilst I have no doubt that the Assembly’s position regarding the Middle East conflict should continue to be made publicly known, and I am equally convinced that the political pressure on different players should be maintained, I nevertheless wish to propose a slightly different approach in the present report.
6. It is increasing obvious that one of the keys to the solution of the problem in the region is democratisation. Pluralistic democratic societies which are grounded on the principles of the rule of law, respect for human rights and which have accountable and representative governments tend to be more open to dialogue than to recourse to brutal violence.
7. The political dialogue between all parties to the conflict is the missing element in the political process in the region. By “all” I mean all players and not just Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon. There can be no doubt that we must situate the conflict in the broader context of the region as a whole.
8. Following the Council of Europe Third Summit held in Warsaw last year and in compliance with the decision taken by the Heads of State and Government to promote democratic values and inter-cultural dialogue outside member states, the Political Affairs Committee has taken some first steps in this respect.
9. In my view this is the right way to proceed as far as this conflict is concerned. At the parliamentary level, we can do a lot on this front. In this report I shall focus on this idea and develop it.
10. For those members of the Assembly who would rather discuss the recent developments in the Middle East, per se, I have prepared a short chronology of events. I have tried to be as objective as possible in selecting the data and I have taken into account the comments and opinions expressed by my colleagues during the preliminary exchange of views on the subject at the recent meeting of the Political Affairs Committee.
II. The Assembly’s achievements in establishing dialogue and promoting democratic values with parliaments of the region: what has been done so far?
11. Significant progress in establishing a dialogue and promoting democratic values in the Middle East has been accomplished over the last few years. In 2001, the Assembly resolved to invite the representatives of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) whenever the question of the Middle East is discussed, be it at the plenary or committee level. This principle was extended to all plenary sessions irrespective of the agenda as from April 2006.
12. Furthermore, in Resolution 1420 (2005), the Assembly resolved to facilitate contacts between the parliamentarians from the Knesset and the PLC, and in particular it instructed its relevant committees, as well as its Secretary General, to step up co-operation with their counterparts in both parliaments by organising joint meetings, conferences and training programmes.
13. Last but not least, the Assembly has invited the Political Affairs Committee to consider the possibility of using its Sub-Committee on the Middle East as a Tripartite Forum enabling parliamentarians from the Knesset, the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Parliamentary Assembly to sit together on an equal footing with a right to speak and make proposals for the Sub-Committee’s agenda and action.
14. The outcome of the January 2006 elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council and the emergence of Hamas as a winning party has confronted the Assembly – and likewise the entire international community – with an essential question: is electoral victory a sufficient condition for the legitimacy of a party which continues to espouse principles incompatible with democratic values?
15. The discussions in the Political Affairs Committee on the occasion of the debate on the situation the Middle East held in the Assembly in April 2006, did not give rise to a unanimous position. Those who supported contacts with Hamas referred to the need for political pragmatism.
16. Consequently, while the Assembly strongly urged the leaders of Hamas to comply with the three well-known requirements of the international community (commitment for non-violence and disarmament, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations), it did not explicitly rule out possible contacts (see UN Resolution 1701).
17. As a result in June 2006, the Sub-Committee on the Middle East of the Political Affairs Committee invited representatives of the PLC without any pre-set conditions. The PLC appointed a delegation composed of two members, one of them being a member of Hamas, but he did not attend the meeting due to visa application difficulties.
18. In my view, the Parliamentary Assembly should have the courage to clearly define its position on this matter and not duck its responsibilities.
19. The Bureau, for its part, has offered a partial clarification by instructing the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly to include in every letter of invitation addressed to the PLC a paragraph, drawing attention to paragraph 11 of Resolution 1493 (2006), which urges Hamas to comply with the three requirements formulated by the international community. However, this solution provides no guarantee that a member of Hamas will not be appointed to represent the PLC; moreover it does not concern the committees.
20. At present, recent developments regarding the possible establishment of a unity government within the Palestinian Authority leave some room for cautious optimism. There is a chance for a political breakthrough, but will it be seized? The possible establishment of a Hamas/Fatah Government would also solve the problem of the relations with Hamas. That said, the problem will crop up again at the later stage when it comes to the contacts with other parties of the region.
21. The Political Affairs Committee is determined to pursue its efforts aimed at improving the political dialogue at parliamentary level irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations on the establishment of a new Government. The decision of principle has already been taken, and the first meeting of the Tripartite Forum is expected to take place in Turkey in the forthcoming months.
22. In the meantime in accordance with Resolution 1245 (2001), parliamentarians from the PLC will continue to be systematically invited to attend the sessions as well as to all meetings of committees whenever Middle East is on the latters' agenda.
23. Last year a group of parliamentarians came up with an initiative concerning co-operation with parliaments from elsewhere in the region. A motion for a recommendation on the possibilities of co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Lebanon has been at the origin of a report which is now under preparation in the Political Affairs Committee.
24. The Rapporteur, Mr Brincat carried out a fact-finding visit to the Lebanon just before the outbreak of hostilities, in June 2006. According to his report, there is great interest among Lebanese political forces represented in the Parliament to establish co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly.
25. Unfortunately, an exchange of views between Lebanese parliamentarians and the Political Affairs Committee, scheduled for September 2006, did not take place due to the situation in the region, but the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Mr Berri, sent a message to the members of the Committee reiterating the Parliament’s readiness to establish co-operation.
26. The Political Affairs Committee has also taken first steps to establish relations with parliamentarians from Syria and Iraq. These first steps have not been successful and the task is not an easy one. There is a good deal of reluctance, but there is also interest. The Assembly should build on that interest.
III. Prospects for the future: What else can be done?
27. I believe that the positive experience of our contacts with the parliamentarians from the PLC could and should be used in our relations with other parliaments from the region. Naturally, we should keep in mind that not all of them have been democratically elected and some of them operate in an undemocratic environment, and adjust our approach accordingly.
28. Nor should we forget that the success of the parliamentary dialogue between the Palestinians and Israelis in the Parliamentary Assembly and our good relations and understanding with the representatives of the PLC have been the result of a long and patient process. Our first contacts with the Iraqi delegation in the Political Affairs Committee have clearly shown that there is a long road ahead of us. But I have no doubt that it is worth trying.
29. I would go even further: it is not only worth trying, it is our moral obligation to do so. The Knesset has got an observer status with the Parliamentary Assembly, the PLC aspires to such a status, and such an idea has already been launched in one of the previous reports presented to the Assembly. The whole region constitutes our close neighbourhood.
30. In the light of recent misunderstandings between peoples of different religions, encouraged by extremists who seek to draw benefit from the “conflict of civilizations” as some are wrongly starting to call it, parliamentarians on both sides can contribute to the victory of reason. Dialogue is always beneficial, there is nothing to lose.
31. If we could succeed in initiating a dialogue between different parties, it would be a great step forward. Ambitious as it may seem, this prospect is not completely unrealistic; let me only recall the difficult beginnings which we experienced before in finding common ground for discussions between parliamentarians from the PLC and Knesset.
32. It is important that in pursuing our objective we should not sacrifice – even for tactical purposes – our democratic values and principles. We wish to have a dialogue but it should be carried out on a basis of universal values of democracy, rule of law and human rights. At the same time, we should demonstrate a degree of comprehension and flexibility to enable us to overcome inevitable problems. We should be critical, but we should also to try to understand and be constructive.
33. In concrete terms, I propose that the Assembly invites the Political Affairs Committee to consider as one of its priorities the establishment of working relations with the parliaments from the region and explore possibilities for a more systematic dialogue and promotion of universal values of democracy, rule of law and human rights with them.
34. These first contacts, if successful, could be followed by more extensive co-operation with other committees.
35. In the long-term, this might possibly allow the Council of Europe, in co-operation with the European Union, to play a similar role in the implementation of the Action Plans elaborated in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy to the role it plays in the case of some of its member states.
36. The recent developments in the region, and in particular the more active involvement of the international community in the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, deployment of international peace-keeping forces, as well as talks on the unity Government in the Palestinian Authority allow some scope for cautious optimism. There is a window of opportunity – once more – and we can only hope that, this time, it will not be wasted as so many times before.
37. The position of the Parliamentary Assembly in this respect can only be consistent with its previous position. In particular, the Assembly should reaffirm its conviction that the Roadmap continues to be a valid reference for the peace negotiations and a two-state solution.
38. Armed hostilities cannot replace dialogue and political talks. Violence as a means of resolving conflicts should be condemned. In this context, the Assembly should call on the Lebanese authorities to assume their responsibilities and disarm Hezbollah in accordance with the United Nations' Resolution 1701. They should also take steps to fully exercise their sovereignty over their whole territory.
39. The Assembly should condemn most firmly the actions of Hezbollah, in particular its indiscriminate use of violence against the civilian populations. As a result of firing over 4000 rockets into Israel during the period July - August 2006, 40 Israeli civilians and 117 militaries have been killed. Hundreds more have been wounded.
40. By the same token, the Assembly should also express its utmost concern about the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army. During the same period, Israel has carried out more than 5000 air strikes over Lebanon, and fired artillery shells into southern Lebanon, killing 1100 Lebanese, the majority of which were civilians, and wounding thousands.
41. The Assembly should express its satisfaction at the role played by the international community which has been instrumental in adopting a UN Resolution which led to the cease-fire and deployment of peacekeeping forces. At the same time, the Assembly might express its concern that it took so long before this decision could be reached.
42. The Assembly should also point out the responsibility of Iran which should be urged to distance itself from terrorism and instead contribute to the stabilisation of the region.
43. It is essential that the dialogue and negotiations with a view to a peaceful settlement of the conflict be resumed rapidly.
44. In this context PACE should also welcome the developments in the Palestinian Authority and encourage Palestinian political forces to increase their efforts with a view to creating a unity government. Here again, the pressure of the international community has been beneficial and should be maintained.
45. The Assembly should resolve to contribute actively to the creation of a positive climate for the political settlement of the conflict, particularly at the parliamentary level, by establishing contacts and dialogue with the parliamentarians from all over the region, and by promoting universal values of democracy, rule of law and human rights among them.
Reporting Committee: Political Affairs Committee.
Reference to Committee: 3275, on 02.10.2006
Draft resolution unanimously adopted by the Committee on 3 October 2006
Members of the Committee : Mr Abdülkadir Ateş (Chairman), Mr Konstantion Kosachev (Vice-Chairman), Mr Zsolt Németh (Vice-Chairman), Mr Giorgi Bokeria (Vice-Chairman), Mr Miloš Aligrudić, Ms Birgir Ármannsson, Mr Giuseppe Arzilli, Mr Claudio Azzolini, Mr Miroslav Beneš, Mr Radu-Mircea Berceanu (alternate: Mrs Cornelia Cazacu), Mr Alexandër Biberaj, Ms Raisa Bohatyryova (alternate : Mrs Olena Bondarenko), Mr Luc Van den Brande, Mr Lorenzo Cesa, M. Mauro Chiaruzzi, Ms Elvira Cortajarena, Ms Anna Čurdová, Mr Noel Davern, Mr Dumitru Diacov, Mr Michel Dreyfus-Schmidt, Ms Josette Durrieu, Mr Mikko Elo, Mr Joan Albert Farré Santuré, Mr Pietro Fassino (alternate: Mr Pietro Marcenaro), Mr Per-Kristian Foss (alternate: Mr Vidar Bjørnstad), Mr Jean-Charles Gardetto, Mr Charles Goerens, Mr Daniel Goulet, Mr Andreas Gross, Mr Jean-Pol Henry, Mr Serhiy Holovaty, Mr Joachim Hörster, Mr Tadeusz Iwiński, Mr Elmir Jahić, Mr Miloš Jeftić, Mr Oskars Kastēns, Ms Darja Lavtižar-Bebler, Mr Göran Lindblad, Mr Younal Loutfi, Mr Mikhail Margelov, Mr Tomasz Markowski, Mr Dick Marty, Mr Frano Matušić, Mr Murat Mercan, Mr Jean-Claude Mignon, Mr Marko Mihkelson, Ms Nadezhda Mikhailova, Mr Aydin Mirzazada, Mr Joāo Bosco Mota Amaral, Ms Natalia Narochnitskaya, Mr Grygoriy Nemyrya, Ms Carina Ohlsson, Mr Theodoros Pangalos, Ms Elsa Papadimitriou (alternate: Mr Panagiotis Skandalakis), Mr Christos Pourgourides, Mr Gordon Prentice, Mr Gabino Puche, Mr Lluís Maria de Puig, Mr Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Mr Andrea Rigoni, Lord Russell-Johnston, Mr Oliver Sambevski, Mr Peter Schieder, Mr Ingo Schmitt, Mr Adrian Severin, Ms Hanne Severinsen, Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Leonid Slutsky, Mr Michael Spindelegger, Mr Rainder Steenblock (alternate: Mrs Marieluise Beck), Mr Zoltán Szabó, Baroness Taylor of Bolton (alternate: Lord Tomlinson), Mr Mehmet Tekelioğlu, Mr Tigran Torosyan, Mr José Vera Jardim, Ms Biruté Vesaité, Mr Varujan Vosganian, Mr David Wilshire, Mr Bart van Winsen, Mr Wolgang Wodarg, Ms Renate Wohlwend, Mr Boris Zala, Mr Krzysztof Zaremba.
Ex-officio: MM. Mátyás Eörsi, Mats Einarsson,
N.B. : The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in bold
Head of the Secretariat : Mr Perin
Secretaries to the Committee: Mrs Nachilo, Mr Chevtchenko, Mrs Pieter, Mrs Dadoun