The European Union has agreed to convene a ministerial conference to discuss providing economic assistance to the Palestinians.
At a meeting last week in Luxembourg, the foreign ministers of the 15 E.U. member states said the conference would examine the economic and commercial needs of the Palestinians with an eye toward providing technical and financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
The European Union views the conference as part of its ongoing efforts to support the Middle East peace process.
The European Commission, the E.U.’s executive arm, has meanwhile been given the go-ahead to start exploratory talks with the Palestinian Authority on a Euro- Mediterranean association accord.
Similar accords have been already reached with Israel and Tunisia.
Other non-E.U. countries in the Mediterranean are negotiating with the European Union to conclude association accords which are aimed at creating a vast Euro- Mediterranean free-trade zone.
In an effort to pursue this objective, the European Union has scheduled for the end of November a ministerial conference in Barcelona with 12 potential Mediterranean partners.
Those invited to attend the Barcelona meeting so far include Israel, Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority.
Preparations for the conference hit snags when some of the Arab invitees said that the gathering should adopt a statement affirming the right of people to self-determination.
Israel has requested that this statement be carefully worded, according to a E.U. Commission source.
In addition, Syria, which has announced that it will be represented in Barcelona, requested that the conference adopt a resolution call for a “just and complete Middle East peace.”
But the main disagreement between the E.U. and the Arab invitees is over the question of whether Libya should participate at the Barcelona meeting.
The Arab countries are seeking Libya’s participation, but E.U. officials are balking at the idea, saying that Libya is still under U.N. sanctions imposed in the wake of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbee, Scotland.
The issue of who will be invited to Barcelona will again be discussed by the E.U. foreign ministers at an Oct. 30 meeting in Luxembourg.