Allow me to address the meeting on behalf of the European Union. The Central and Eastern European countries associated with the European Union, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the associated countries of Cyprus, Malta and Turkey and the EFTA country belonging to the European Economic Area Iceland, align themselves with this statement.
The situation in the Middle East remains very serious and, as we are all aware, holds grave risks for regional stability. I do not want to go back here over the tragic events continuing to unfold in the occupied Palestinian territories, as the EU has spoken at length on that subject in the debate on the question of Palestine, when we once again pointed out that negotiation is the only way of bringing a final settlement to the Palestinian question. In the peace process, a body of achievements has been established which needs to be preserved and rounded off. In particular, we have in mind the Madrid Conference principles, especially that of land for peace, and Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, as well as the agreements signed by the parties and the headway made in previous negotiations.
The search for peace is primarily a matter for the parties themselves by means of negotiations on all components of final status, including the prospect of a just and viable solution to the issues of Jerusalem and refugees, as well as economic support for the Palestinian population. In order to find a way out of the present sorry state of affairs, we once more call on the Israeli and Palestinian sides to ensure full, immediate and unqualified implementation, without preconditions, of the recommendations made in the Mitchell report and in the Tenet plan. But there are indeed no winners in this chain of confrontation and violence. The parties must get back to the path of dialogue and negotiation without delay.
In Lebanon, Mr. President, a major development emerged last year, with Israel’s withdrawal from the south of the country. At the time, the EU took note with satisfaction of that decision by the Israeli Government, which was in line with Security Council Resolution 425. It commended the successive steps helping to restore stability in that area, as a necessary condition for reconstruction and development. The EU remains ready to contribute to reconstruction work in the area, just as it has constantly done for Lebanon as a whole. If these aims are to be achieved, it is essential for the Lebanese Government, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1365, to take greater measures to reestablish its authority in practice throughout the south, particularly by deploying Lebanese armed forces. In addition, the parties must continue to honor their commitment to observe scrupulously the withdrawal line mapped out by the United Nations, show the utmost restraint and cooperate fully with the UN and UNIFIL. In this connection, UNIFIL can count on the European Union’s full support in carrying out its task of restoring international peace and security.
That progress in Lebanon does not, however, resolve the broader problem of the peace process in the region. The European Union would reiterate that the search for a comprehensive, lasting peace in the region requires due account to be taken of the Israeli Syrian and Israeli Lebanese tracks in the conflict, resolution of which has to be based on the Madrid Conference principles, particularly that of land for peace, and Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. We call on the parties to resume negotiations on that basis as soon as circumstances permit.
The European Union reaffirms its belief in respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states in the region. It also repeats that it regards the establishment of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights as illegal and in breach of international law.
The EU is resolved to work for the reactivation of the multilateral track of the peace process as soon as conditions are right. It attaches particular importance to the economic and regional development working group, for which it acts as coordinator. Regional cooperation will enable the economic, environmental and demographic challenges of the years ahead best to be addressed. It was in that spirit that at Santa Maria da Feira the EU adopted a common strategy on the Mediterranean region. This included a statement of its conviction that the successful conclusion of the Middle East peace process on all its tracks, as well as the resolution of other conflicts in the region, are important prerequisites for peace and stability in the Mediterranean. Given its interests in the region and its close and longstanding ties with the region’s constituent countries, the EU aspires to play its full part in bringing about stability and development in the Middle East. The cooperation already initiated under the Barcelona process is a determining factor in laying the foundations for the post peace era in the region.
The Euro Mediterranean Conference recently held in Brussels on 5 and 6 November 2001 once again showed the attachment of all partners to the Barcelona process as a key, prime forum for dialogue and cooperation between the European Union and the countries on the southern and eastern sides of the Mediterranean. The Barcelona vision remains as topical as ever.
The European Union would like to conclude by restating its firm commitment to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace based on the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and the principles emerging from the Madrid Middle East Peace Conference. The EU remains prepared to do its full part in working for a peaceful, prosperous future in the Middle East.
Thank you, Mr. President.