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Let us promote peace

By MEP David Casa, The Times of Malta, 26.11.06

Nationalist Mep David Casa looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the contribution Malta and the EU could give towards a long-lasting peace
More reports of killings and tragedies are reaching us from the Middle East. A few months after the Israel-Hezbollah war that left Lebanon shattered, the world community has witnessed another massacre in Beit Hanoun, in the Gaza Strip. These events are destabilising the Mediterranean region and indirectly affecting other countries, including Malta.
I believe that a collective effort must be made by the international community to control this bloodshed. Extremes are dangerous and this has been proved time and again.
The European Parliament expressed its anxieties about the worsening Middle East situation in a declaration on Beit Hanoun. MEPs condemned the Israeli military operation carried out there and in Gaza, and the use of disproportionate action; they also called on the Palestinian militias to stop the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israeli territory, which deliberately targets civilians, to respect the truce and to refrain from further escalation of the conflict.
During this month's plenary session, the European Parliament again declared, at this particular stage, that a solution to the Middle East conflict would only be possible through the negotiation of a firm and final peace agreement. The existence of two democratic, sovereign and viable states, living peacefully side by side within secure and recognised international borders, is essential and that the continuing loss of civilian lives is intolerable.
The European Parliament considers the involvement of the Arab League to be crucial in this context. MEPs consider the 2002 Beirut Plan, agreed by the member countries of the League of Arab States, and the Geneva Initiative to be important contributions to the negotiations, which should be duly taken into account.
The European Union is doing its utmost to create dialogue between young people in the region. Through the Euro-Med Youth Programme, hundreds of young Arabs and Israelis came together and discussed ways of collaborating on various issues.
This project is being empowered with the new Youth in Action programme where youths from EU member states together with young people from the Mediterranean and other regions may meet and discuss various topics. These projects are assisting to develop integration, intercultural dialogue and understanding between people.
The EPP-ED European Party, to which I belong, believes that a stronger political commitment of the EU in the Middle East must continue through the Quartet and a clear and balanced input to the peace process.
Furthermore, the Group will work constantly to consolidate peace in Afghanistan. Dialogue with the Arab and Muslim world shall be a priority of the Union's presence in the region.
A new impetus must be given to the Barcelona process in the Mediterranean region, notably through the establishment of a Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, emphasis being put on democracy and the respect of the rule of law, on economic and social development as well as on intensifying cultural dialogue.
The unveiling of a tentative peace plan by three EU member states - Spain, Italy and France - is a good omen for this violence-ravaged region. Stability and security across the Mediterranean region are vital for economic growth and development. The proposed plan of action will be submitted in December, during the EU summit and EU states will be able to discuss this plan.
The proposal would include an immediate ceasefire and the formation of a Palestinian government of national unity. The other three components of the plan would involve an exchange of prisoners, talks between Israel's prime minister and the Palestinian Authority President and an international mission in Gaza to monitor a ceasefire.
The vicious circle of violence should be broken as soon as possible. Generations in this region have witnessed hostility and bloodshed due to conflicts. Israelis and Palestinians deserve peace and the world community must do its best to help bring it about.
Malta would also benefit from peace in the Middle East. Malta's good relations with the Palestinian people could give a useful contribution to the Spanish-French-Italian initiative. Malta has experience in peace negotiations between states and we should do our utmost to find a lasting solution to this conflict.
This is an opportunity to show the world what Maltese hospitality and being Christian mean. All Maltese political parties agree that this violence should be stopped. Let us unite in the promotion of peace for the benefit of humankind.