Monday

4th Jul 2022

EU top diplomat in Middle East amid continuing violence

  • Mr Solana's diplomatic efforts could be flanked by those of Ms Rice and perhaps Mr Fischer (Photo: Irish EU Presidency)

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has arrived in the violence-stricken Middle East for fresh talks with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian politicians.

Mr Solana arrived in Israel on Tuesday evening (18 July) for a meeting with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, after he had held discussions with the Lebanese leadership over the weekend.

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The EU foreign policy chief's latest diplomatic effort comes amid continued violence between Israel and the Islamist Hezbollah movement, with the BBC reporting that 230 Lebanese people and 25 Israelis have been killed since the conflict erupted last week.

Mr Solana will also meet the Palestinian leadership on Wednesday, as Israeli military operations in the Palestinian territories are continuing.

The top diplomat will subsequently go to Cairo for talks with the Egyptian government on Thursday.

Meanwhile, US state secretary Condoleezza Rice is also preparing to travel to the region, possibly next week, according to media reports.

Fischer as EU envoy?

But some voices are pleading for a stronger EU role in ending the hostilities, with the Greens in the European Parliament suggesting former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer – himself a Green politician – should become special EU peace envoy.

"As a proven international politician, respected both in Israel and Palestine, Joschka Fischer would be ideally placed to play a mediating role, as an EU envoy, aimed at negotiating a ceasefire," leading Green MEPs Daniel Cohn-Bendit from Germany and Italian Monica Frassoni said in a statement.

"Following this, an international initiative based on the 'roadmap' for peace in the Middle East should be re-launched and an international conference should be prepared with a view to achieving peace in the region," they added.

In an interview with Spiegel Online, Mr Cohn-Bendit also said the UN should task NATO to set up a peace force in the area, as the alliance is "currently the only military force which could do something like that."

His remarks follow calls by UN secretary general Kofi Annan for a stronger UN force to be stationed between Israel and Lebanon.

UN force

"It is urgent that the international community acts to make a difference on the ground," Mr Annan said after meeting European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Tuesday.

"I would expect a force that will have a modified and different concept of operation and with different capabilities. I would expect contributions from European countries and countries from other regions," the UN chief said.

The UN has had a 2,000 strong force in south Lebanon since 1978, known as UNIFIL, but it lacks the necessary mandate.

Mr Barroso said some EU member states had expressed their willingness to contribute to the proposed force, with the Finnish EU presidency indicating member states have made it clear they would "favourably consider participating in such a mission."

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