Mediterranean summit delayed to allow Mideast dialogue: Spain

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A summit of the Mediterranean Union planned for June 5-7 in Barcelona has been postponed to give time for progress in indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Spain said Thursday.

A spokesman for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier announced in Cairo that the summit had been postponed until November.

The decision was taken after consultation with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the spokesman, Suleiman Awad, was quoted by Egypt's state news agency as saying.

Egypt and France are co-chairman of the Mediterranean Union, while Spain hosts its headquarters in Barcelona and currently also holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

A source at Spain's foreign ministry confirmed the decision.

"The reason is primarily to allow time to move forward proximity talks" between Israel and the Palestinians "and thus provide the necessary conditions and circumstances to ensure that the summit will be the success we all want," the source said.

"We hope the summit will contribute, from the regional perspective, to the process of dialogue and peace in the Middle East."

Israel's far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had insisted last week he would go to the Barcelona summit despite a reported Arab threat to boycott the talks over his attendance.

The 43-nation Mediterranean Union was established in 2008 in Paris by France and Egypt in a bid to foster cooperation in one of the world's most volatile regions.

But it was temporarily mothballed in early 2009 because of tensions caused by Israel's offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were launched on May 9.

The negotiations were first agreed on in March but the initiative collapsed within days when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians eventually agreed to the talks after receiving US assurances that the project would be frozen.

Last month, talks in Barcelona between Mediterranean Union members aimed at adopting a water management strategy for the region ended in failure due to a row between Israel and Arab countries over a reference to the Palestinian territories.

The Spanish source said it was unclear whether the planned November summit would take place in Barcelona.

© 2010 AFP

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