Michel backs 'off road' route to Mid-East peace

26th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

26 March 2004, BRUSSELS - The European Union should move away from the ill-fated roadmap for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and begin looking for 'off road' solutions to the Middle East conflict, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel has said.

26 March 2004

BRUSSELS - The European Union should move away from the ill-fated roadmap for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and begin looking for 'off road' solutions to the Middle East conflict, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel has said.

Speaking on Thursday after meeting with his European counterparts at this week's EU summit in Brussels, Michel suggested that the roadmap, drawn up in June 2003, was no longer in a position to deliver peace in the Middle East.

He said some other EU foreign ministers had agreed with his comments, but did not name them.

"We need to find solutions outside of the roadmap and to embark on what I call off road exploration, particularly in the direction of Arab League countries," Michel told journalists after the Brussels talks.

"We have to force open a window of opportunity," he added.

The road map was drafted by diplomats from the United States, the EU, Russia and the United Nations and amended after talks with both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The ambitious plan set out a three-phase process that was supposed to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensure Israel's security and create a viable, democratic Palestinian state by 2005. This was to have been followed up by a series of peace deals between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

But most analysts now say the roadmap is dead in the water, with neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians showing any real commitment to meet the plan's goals.

Israel's assassination last week of Sheikh Yassin, spiritual leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas, was seen by many as the final nail in the roadmap's coffin.

Washington's subsequent refusal to back a UN resolution that would have formally criticised Israel's action only pushed the possibility of a peace settlement based on the US-backed roadmap even further away, analysts add.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news

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