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EU persists with call for mediation


5 April 2002

The European Union insisted it would continue its mediation efforts despite Israel's decision to block EU envoys meeting Yasser Arafat yesterday.

Jose Maria Aznar, the Spanish Prime Minister, whose country holds the EU presidency, described the Israeli decision as "mistaken". Romano Prodi, the European Commission president, said Israel was systematically destroying the Palestinian Authority.

As the two senior EU envoys arrived in Israel to press for a ceasefire, Mr Prodi said: "This morning, the Israeli ambassador [to the EU] said [Israel] would be acting in all the territories and would end up with Gaza. So everything was already planned from the outset."

The EU has been the main financier of the Palestinian Authority, supplying about 2bn more than half all the international assistance to the territories in an attempt to turn it into a semblance of a state since its creation following the Oslo accords in 1994.

But in the present crisis the EU's lack of influence on Israel and America has been exposed. This week, Mr Prodicondemned the failure of US diplomacy in the Middle East.

The EU mission, consisting of Josep Pique, the Spanish Foreign Minister, and Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, will not meet any other Palestinian representatives. Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian Authority minister, said: "If this delegation fails to get permission to meet Arafat, they will meet no Palestinians."

Earlier Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, was dismissive of Mr Prodi's call for the European Union, Russians and moderate Arabs to broker a regional peace agreement. He said: "The immediate problem is to get control over the terrorism and the violence."

Patrick Cockburn
Published in the Independent © 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd



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