E.c. Backing U.S. Efforts for Middle East Peace

The European Community has thrown its support behind the latest U.S. efforts to achieve peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians.

The leaders of the 12 member states, attending a summit meeting here Monday, wished success to U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, who on Tuesday conferred in Jerusalem with Israeli leaders and then continued on to Cairo and Damascus.

Baker scored points with the Israelis, when they announced their readiness to engage in a regional peace conference with Arab states, the United States and Soviet Union.

But Arab leaders were less sanguine, expressing displeasure with the fact that the proposed conference would be regional and not fully international.

Baker has promised to inform E.C. leaders of the results of his latest Middle East trip.

The E.C, long eager to pursue an independent policy in the Middle East, seems to be taking its cues from U.S. leadership since the Persian Gulf war. It no longer insists that an international conference under U.N. auspices is the only route to peace in the region.

This puts the E.C. in tune with the latest Israeli proposals.

The E.C. was especially supportive of Baker’s call for “confidence-building” measures on both sides to establish a climate for “one or several peace conferences.”

CONTACTS WITH PLO STILL POSSIBLE

On the other hand, the Europeans still support self-determination for the Palestinians, including the possibility of a Palestinian state.

The E.C. position veers from the Israeli and the American stance, in that there still stands a chance that the E.C. will resume its contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The E.C. ended its high-level contacts with the PLO after PLO chief Yasir Arafat threw in his lot with Saddam Hussein during the Persian Gulf crisis. But diplomatic sources here said E.C. ties with the PLO might be resumed.

According to the sources, French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas might meet with Arafat during his next visit to Tunis.

However, an unofficial text put out by the E.C. makes no mention of a PLO role in the peace process.

Prime Minister Jacques Santer of Luxembourg, the country presently holding the rotating chairmanship of the E.C, flies to Washington on Thursday to meet with President Bush.

Middle East developments will probably be discussed.

According to one E.C. official, “The European Community appears to lag behind Washington. What counts is to find a solution and, if there is one, the Community has to play its economic card to help the economic development of the Mideast-Mediterranean area.”

The E.C. summit was held on an informal basis to discuss the situation in the region following the Persian Gulf war, and no formal statement was issued at the conclusion of the five-hour meeting Monday night.

LAND FOR PEACE STRESSED

But according to the unofficial text, obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the E.C. leaders asked the foreign ministers to continue their consultations with all parties involved in the conflict.

“As an important actor, the E.C. must be associated” with peace efforts in the Middle East, the text said.

It stressed that international legality is “indivisible” and that a peace settlement must be based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, “according to the principle of territories in exchange for peace.”

The document added that “a dialogue must be engaged between all parties involved on the basis of two principles: Israel’s right to secure and recognized frontiers and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

“Each party must be able to determine its own representation, and no solution must be turned down, including the creation of a Palestinian state,” the E.C. leaders said.

They recalled their firm commitment to “the respect of human rights and the improvement of living conditions in the occupied territories.”

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