Monday, June 09, 2008

Arabs wary of Israel joining Mediterranean Union

The Peninsula-Qatar's Leading English Daily

Algiers • Arab countries have asked for clarification surrounding Israel's membership of a proposed Mediterranean Union, plans for which are due to be unveiled next week, Algeria's foreign minister said yesterday.

Plans for the Union were at the top of the agenda as the 15th round of the Mediterranean Forum (Formed) opened in Algiers.

The proposed Union is an idea strongly advocated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is due to present the project on July 13 at a Paris summit of Mediterranean candidates eligible to join the new bloc.

Attending the Forum in Algiers were 11 of the countries that line the Mediterranean to the north and south, including Slovenia — which currently holds the rotating EU presidency-and Libya, which heads the Arab Maghreb Union.

"Among the items that must be clarified are the consequences of Israel's presence inside the Mediterranean Union," said Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci, who opened yesterday's conference.

"The Mediterranean Union must not normalise (relations) between Israel and Arab countries, something which has not been achieved by the Barcelona process", launched in 1995 to bring the European Union and five countries from the Mediterranean's southern rim closer together, he said.

Normalising relations with Israel is the issue of a separate debate among Arab countries which voted in 2002 in Beirut that Israel must evacuate Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 before normalisation can occur.

Medelci warned that Mediterranean Union countries which do not have relations with Israel "must not be forced to be part of joint projects" with Israel inside the Union.

Algiers has made it clear that it will only announce its participation in the July 13 Paris conference after obtaining the necessary clarifications on Israel's role but Medelci said its position did not mean Algiers had reservations about Sarkozy's project.

"Our decision on whether or not to attend the Paris summit will be known once we know the contents of the Mediterranean Union project," he said, adding that Algiers could announce its position after a July 12 foreign ministers meeting of Union candidate countries.

"Such a project cannot be accepted all at once," said Medelci who will attend the foreign ministers meeting on the eve of the summit.

He insisted that "southern countries want to leave a mark" on the project.

Algeria notably has reservations about how the Mediterranean Union will be financed and where its headquarters will be located.

Click here for the latest!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home