HomeMEDIA RESOURCES200317 October 2003 - NATO PARLIAMENTARIANS DISCUSS MEDITERRANEAN SECURITY
17 October 2003 - NATO PARLIAMENTARIANS DISCUSS MEDITERRANEAN SECURITY
NATO parliamentarians held their 9th Mediterranean Seminar in the Spanish city of Malaga on 9 and 10 October focusing on events in the Middle East following the war in Iraq. Legislators exchanged their views with their counterparts from several observer countries, many from North Africa and the Middle East.
The two-day seminar opened with a keynote speech by Ambassador Miguel Angel Moratinos, former EU Special Envoy to the Middle East peace process, on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. Mr Moratinos stressed that it was not sufficient to focus only on the Arab-Israeli conflict and urged the international community seek a global solution to several problems and crises creating insecurity in a region ranging from North Africa to Iraq.
Citing former Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, Mr Moratinos said it was necessary to adopt a parallel strategy of peace talks and efforts to curb terrorist attacks or one simply played into the hands of people wishing to derail the peace process. “You must negotiate as if there is no terror and you must fight terror like there are no negotiations,” he quoted the former Israeli prime minister as saying.
During another session of the seminar, NATO parliamentarians gave a guarded welcome to a revamped set of proposals designed to lead to a lasting peace settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict presented during a recent seminar of the NATO PA’s Mediterranean group in Malaga, Spain.
While all members stressed the need to surmount several obstacles currently blocking the path towards an overall agreement, the seminar praised the input of two key speakers – Mr Hussein Agha, a leading Palestinian scholar, and Mr Joseph Paritzky, a minister in the current Israeli government.
“We are ready for a two state solution, but not a two stage solution,” Mr Paritzky, Minister of National Infrastructures, declared, but he added that Palestinians had to abandon terror and accept Israel’s right to exist as part of any final settlement. “A state that cannot or will not take certain responsibilities – such as controlling its people – should not be treated by other states as an equal,” he stated.
Mr Agha, currently a senior associate member at St Anthony’s College, Oxford, presented a wide-ranging paper in which he argued that both the final status of Jerusalem and the right of return for refugees were not insurmountable problems so long as any outline deal was submitted to both populations in the form of a referendum.
Mr Pierre Lellouche, Vice President of the NATO PA, said the two speakers’ reasoned and balanced contributions offered “a glimmer of hope” in what is often now portrayed as a bleak, almost hopeless situation.
Professor Khaled Fouad Allam of the University of Trieste in Italy and Professor George Joffé of the Centre for International Studies at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom presented separate papers on Islam and Democracy and Radical Islam respectively. Both subjects prompted a vigorous question and answer session with members of NATO parliaments and their counterparts from North Africa and the Middle East.
On the second day of the seminar, participants were urged to open a wide-ranging dialogue with moderate elements in the Iranian government, but warned concerns the country could be developing a nuclear weapons programme were currently still justified.
“There is cause for concern,” a senior diplomat from the Vienna-based IAEA told participants. He stressed, however, that the jury was still out on how far the government had gone or intended to go in developing a nuclear weapon capability.
Earlier, the seminar in Malaga, Spain which was focused on radical Islam and democracy, heard an impassioned plea to keep open channels of communication with Tehran and urge the government to adopt democratic reforms.
Mr Ali Ansari, a lecturer from Durham university’s Islamic studies department, said there were many unpleasant aspects to the current regime, but that the best way of combating and isolating these elements was by dialogue and in particular by pressuring the government to respect human rights. “By so doing, the West will make itself tremendously popular with ordinary Iranians,” he said.
The Chairman of the Mediterranean Group, Jean-Michel Boucheron, will report in greater detail the results of the seminar to the Assembly’s plenary at its next meeting in Orlando, United States, November 7-11.