Ten EU FMs tell Blair road map is dead, call for int'l conference

By MARK WEISS
July 9, 2007 18:52

Ministers urge new Mideast envoy to push Israel to release "thousands of prisoners."

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A group of 10 EU foreign ministers has called for an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling the road map peace plan dead. In a letter to the Quartet's new Middle East envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the foreign ministers said the status quo that had prevailed since 2000 was leading nowhere. Signing the letter, which was published in the French daily Le Monde on Monday, were the foreign ministers of France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Slovenia and Malta. They called on Israel to make more concessions to boost the standing of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, such as the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners including Fatah leaders, and the immediate release of all the frozen Palestinian customs duties. A senior official in Jerusalem noted that the letter did not constitute a change in policy of either the EU or the Quartet, and both bodies remain officially committed to the road map. The official also noted that individual European foreign ministers would sometimes state opinions on Middle East issues that actually contradicted the policy of the governments in which they serve. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel remained committed to the road map. He said the reason why there had been no progress on the plan until now was because the Palestinian leadership rejected peace and implementation of the measures called for in it. "Hopefully, with the formation of a new Palestinian government, we can take steps towards implementation of the road map," Regev said. He also noted that Jerusalem was not opposed in principle to the idea of an international conference and such a conference was actually called for in the latter stages of the road map. The road map was adopted in September 2002 by the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators from the US, the EU, Russia and the UN. It calls for a three-stage process leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.


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