An Opportunity for Peace
By: Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé
Al_Hayat - 27/09/06//

Few days before the fifteenth anniversary of the Madrid Conference, it should be clear by now that we are carrying forward a problem from the last century into the new millennium. It must not be allowed to drag on any longer. The latest violent clashes between Israel and Lebanon have not resolved any of the pending issues between them. Once again, the resort to violent conflict in order to reach a global or partial solution to the Middle East conflict has proven useless. Far from contributing to any solution, the fifty-year long outbreaks of war in the region have only served to widespread suffering and to exacerbate the political, economic and social divisions among the people in the region.

The recent crisis has once again showed that policies stemming from a unilateral definition of the future status quo of the region are simply not feasible. On the other hand, peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan have allowed Israel to feel safe with those neighbours and are clearly more useful to consolidate Israel´s relations with its neighbours. However, this argument works both ways: denying Israel its right to exist behind secure frontiers and upholding the use of violence and terrorism to wipe out the State of Israel are another side of the sterile unilateralism that should be condemned and eradicated for the sake of a fair, definitive peace.

The experience of recent months has further emphasised the key importance of the Palestine-Israeli conflict. Healing this wound has become more urgent than ever as an essential condition for solving the remaining regional problems. The idea of a new Palestine government of national unity and the emerging consensus between the Palestine political forces regarding cessation of hostilities and negotiation with Israel on the basis of agreements adopted between the PLO and Israel, are definitely a sign of progress. I trust that we can make some headway on both tracks in the near future. In this context, the international community should overcome its hesitancy and fully accept the role of the President of the Palestine National Authority, a strategic partner with whom Israel must discuss the application of already-defined measures to create trust and enter into negotiations on substantive political questions.

Another lesson from the recent Lebanese crisis is that the conflicts devastating the Middle East cannot be tackled separately. On the contrary, the problems and their solutions are increasingly interdependent. Thus, it would not be realistic to exclude any regional stakeholder from the diplomatic efforts in order to find a global solution.

In this context, the number of those demanding a new virtuous cycle of political mobilisation is on the rise. The Arab countries, jointly through the Arab League, have signalled their intent to advance down the promising path opened at the 2002 Beirut Summit, which advocated a peace based on the two-State formula. Everyone agrees that the parties need substantive foreign support to foster the diplomatic efforts and guarantee their success. Without questioning the importance of the United States, the European Union and its Member States have emerged as indispensable players in the Middle East. On top of their decisive contribution to attenuating the latest crisis and their traditional donor role, the EU States' involvement in providing and guaranteeing security in southern Lebanon and on the Rafah border shows how that the new and firm commitment of Europe to the peace process is essential. In this context, Spain has become an especially qualified actor, with an important contribution to make in the political field as well as regarding security and cooperation.

In my opinion, the role of the European Union and the United States should lead to a revival of the Madrid Quartet, which could incorporate the added value of some key countries from the region, thus multiplying the Quartet´s capacity to bring a new chance to the peace process. It may be timely for all the stakeholders to meet again, as they did in 1991, to re-affirm their commitment to seeking a global solution.

I remain deeply convinced that we must avoid inventing new solutions, but rather this is the time to show courage, generosity and political will to implement options aiming to equitable solutions that have already been examined in previous rounds of negotiations.

All in all, we must distance ourselves from those who manipulate the frustration of the populations living in the Middle East and falsely proclaim the West to be incompatible with the Islamic world. To avoid further deterioration of the current situation, we must grab the opportunity before us and get down to constructing a fair, global peace in the region without further delay. The painfully dramatic events of the last few months in the Middle East and the humanitarian catastrophe they have triggered should have the paradoxical effect of providing some lessons and setting in motion a process of political action spearheaded by the Governments in the region, with the assistance of the most important international stakeholders. In this sense, and beyond the immediate and clearly vital objective of ensuring its effective and rigorous implementation, United Nations' Security Council Resolution 1701(2006) should foster a new regional and international political dynamic.

Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé

* Original English