NO. 1043 DOI – 09.07.2007
Further to the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Ten Southern European Member States of the European Union, in Protoroz, Slovenia, it was agreed that the following Open Letter would be addressed to the new Quartet Envoy for the Middle East, Mr. Tony Blair, by all the ten foreign ministers of the EU Mediterranean States comprising France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania.
The following is an English Translation of the Letter originally drafted in French:
Open letter to Tony Blair Quartet Special Envoy to the Middle East
After ten years spent at the service of Great Britain, and while the world was sorry to see you leave the international scene, you accepted a mission that is truly most complex, even impossible. Impossible? The task, would in fact, prove enough to discourage many.
A whole series of negative factors have been added on to the seemingly endless story of attaining peace between Israel and the Palestinians: the takeover of Gaza by Hamas of course, the internal political difficulties in Israel, the US’s waiting game, Europe's lack of conviction, in spite of the meritorious initiatives taken by Javier Solana, and especially, the terrible feeling of helplessness which seems to have gripped the international community.
Unquestionably, the situation is very discouraging. And yet, while welcoming your decision to accept this mission, we cannot help feeling an unlikely sense of optimism. First of all, because we are well aware of your courage, your sense of the common good and your determination. But also because the extent of the crisis has provoked a healthy awakening of consciousness which, paradoxically, makes progress finally possible.
We might as well acknowledge from the outset, that on the forefront of this analysis, there is the awareness of shared failure that can no longer be ignored: the 'roadmap' has failed. The status quo prevailing since 2000 does not lead anywhere, as we know. The too strict conditions that we have the habit of imposing from the outset from the resumption of the peace process have only worsened the situation. The 'cold-feet' attitude which renders the international community immobile has wrought far too much damage.
This negative balance imposes on us a change of approach. More importantly, it compels us to have a more open vision. Europe has the duty to say this to both its Israeli and Palestinian friends.
Because, if we accept to change perspective, if we take the risk of viewing the situation with a fresh look, the present situation also offers a series of opportunities. We will cite two.
First of all, the taking of Gaza by Hamas. Some hope can rise from this reversal. The risk of civil war in Cisjordania, the threat of a de facto partition of Palestine and of a return to the pre-1967 Jordanian and Egyptian scenarios, could in fact jolt things. The President of the Palestinian Authority alone, by his tenacity in promoting peace and dialogue, and courageously denouncing terrorism, constitutes a reason for optimism. Another reason for hope: the determined application of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Qatar, beside Egypt and Jordan. Thanks to their considerable resources, these new protagonists are able to bring decisive aid.
These two points, dear Tony, permit us to redefine our objectives. Backed by a renewed consultation of the Quartet and of the Arab League follow up group of the Arab League (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the Emirates) which brings together the two parties (Messrs. Olmert and Abbas) these objectives should amount to four:
- Offer hope, a true political solution to the peoples of the region. This can be achieved through negotiations, without any prerequisites, on the final status, even if the way has to be accomplished by successive phases. Encompassing questions such as Jerusalem, refugees and borders, these negotiations should allow for an objective which is shared and realistic.
- Take account of Israel's need for security. The idea of a robust international force, of the type of NATO or UN Chapter VII, should be examined. It would have legitimate powers to ensure order in the territories and impose the respect of a necessary ceasefire. Obviously, the risks are high, but this force can be viable and reliable if two conditions are respected: that it is accompanied by a peace plan of which it should not be a substitute, and that it relies on an inter-palestinian agreement.
- Obtain from Israel concrete and immediate measures in favour of Mahmoud Abbas, among which the transfer of all the taxes due, the liberation of thousands of prisoners who have no blood on their hands, also the liberation of principal Palestinian leaders to ensure renewal within Fatah, the freezing of colonies and the evacuation of uncontrolled settlements. None of these measures can be objected to for security reasons. Europe and the Quartet have to say this firmly and in a friendly way to Israel. It is too late to procrastinate.
- Do not push Hamas to escalation. This means reopening the frontier between Gaza and Egypt and the facilitation of passage between Gaza and Israel, and to encourage Saudi Arabia and Egypt, just as President Mubarak had proposed, to re-establish dialogue between Hamas and Fatah.
These four objectives are within our reach. In spite of the dramatic circumstances, in spite of the wounds and the hatred, we are facing a historic opportunity - perhaps the last.
We know your capacity for imagination. We are therefore certain that you will know how to deal with these problems in a global way. This is why it is important to bring together an international conference that includes all the parties in conflict, without any further ado.
You have, dear Tony, the extraordinary privilege of being able to transform into reality the vision of two states, Israeli and Palestinian, living side by side in peace and security.
Please rest assured that you can count on our backing and our unhesitating support during every day of your mission.
the ten Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Mediterranean Member states of the European Union (representing France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania) 6th July 2007, in Portoroz, Slovenia.