(photo credit: AP)
Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Friday he hoped senior diplomats from 11 countries meeting to discuss the Middle East process would come up with "important initiatives" for peace in the Mediterranean region.
"I hope that tomorrow (Saturday) we can announce the Declaration of Alicante, a declaration that comes at an important moment for the future peace and stability of the Mediterranean basin," Moratinos said at a welcoming ceremony at a medieval hilltop castle in this Spanish Mediterranean port city.
Joining Moratinos at the annual informal gathering of the so-called Foromed group were counterparts from Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal and Turkey. Algeria, France and Tunisia sent state secretaries. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are represented.
Moratinos said he hoped the meeting would allow the diplomats "to reflect, debate and conclude with important initiatives."
There were no details as to what the initiatives might entail but the gathering comes after Moratinos said Tuesday he felt the "road map" for peace no longer provided the answers to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He urged the European Union to take the lead in pushing for a fresh approach.
Israeli and Palestinian officials responded, saying Moratinos was overly pessimistic and expressed their continuing faith in the "road map."
Earlier this week, a Moratinos aide said the declaration Saturday would offer "a new vision of how things are going in the Middle East."
The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because ministry ground rules forbid him to be identified, stressed that the declaration would not oppose the "road map."
"It's not that the 'road map' is of no use, but it's not enough. A lot more needs to be done, more proposals need to be made," he said.
The ministers and diplomats were to meet again Saturday morning before Moratinos presents the declaration at a news conference.
Described as a group of "like-minded" countries, Foromed was formed on the initiative of Egypt and France in 1994 to boost political, economic and cultural cooperation in the Mediterranean region long hindered by the Middle East conflict.
The Spanish official did not rule out the possibility that Foromed would call for the staging of a Middle East summit.
Moratinos argues that any new talks should involve Syria - a longtime foe of Washington - and that Iran's nuclear program would also need to be addressed at such a conference.