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September 3, 2006


Filed under: Eurabia, Mellemøsten — limewoody @ 9:51 am

By Ann Cahill, Europe Correspondent, Finland
A PALESTINIAN government of national unity that includes Hamas offers a way to get the Middle East peace process back on track and allow the EU to recognise Hamas, EU foreign ministers agreed last night.

Diplomats described the present state of the peace road map as “a mess”, especially after the invasion of Lebanon by Israel and the war with Hezbollah.

Meanwhile in Damascus, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Syria was set to step up border controls to stop the arms flow to Hezbollah.

European ministers held a brainstorming session in Finland yesterday.

The Finnish minister Erkki Tuoioja, chairing the two-day meeting, said they have to be ready to talk to all parties, including Hamas and Syria. However Hamas, which is on the EU’s terror list, would first have to recognise Israel, he added.

But a government of national unity, which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is negotiating, offers a way out of this difficulty.

President Abbas is insisting that parties to such a national government would accept conditions the same as those set by the EU — an end to violence, recognition of Israel and adherence to agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

After the meeting Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said that with agreement on a government of national unity there will be “at least tacit acceptance of a two-state solution”.

This line of thinking was put to the ministers by EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. “We are interested in talking to that unity government. Of course, in that government, there will be Hamas people,” he said.

But all of this is conditional on President Abbas succeeding in forming a multi-party government.

Mr Ahern pointed out there would be additional problems as the Hamas deputy prime minister, six other ministers and 30 members of the legislative council are all in Israeli jails.

Despite France and Britain publicly insisting they cannot talk to Syria either, there was general agreement that all parties involved in the Middle East, including Syria, must be included in discussions.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Syria has pledged to step up border patrols and work with the Lebanese army to stop the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.

Annan also said that he had asked Syrian President Bashar Assad to use his nation’s influence to help win the release of three Israeli soldiers held by Lebanese and Palestinian militants allied with Damascus.

According to Annan, Assad said at a meeting in Damascus that Syria will boost its guards along the Lebanon-Syria border and establish joint patrols with the Lebanese army “where possible”.

Asked whether such measures would succeed in blocking arms shipments to Hezbollah, Annan replied: “I think it can happen. It may not be 100%, but it will make quite a lot of difference.”


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