Syria Disappointed at Arab Participation in Euromed
By Nabil Al Mulhem
Albawaba.com - Damascus
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Shara has voiced his disappointment that the October Arab Summit and the meetings of the Arab foreign ministers on the sidelines of the Islamic Summit in Doha have failed to crystallize a unified Arab stand regarding the participation at Euromed conference in Marseille Wednesday and Thursday, where Israel is taking part.
At a press conference held in Damascus Wednesday, Shara said that the Arab ministers “held five meetings, with Syria as a coordinator for the Arab group: Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunis, Algeria, Palestine and Libya and we discussed the issue with objectivity.”
But the participants did not reach a unanimous decision to boycott the meeting.
As for Syria, there are three reasons for not taking part in the event, according to the foreign minister.
“The Euromed partnership is five years old; we will not say that it has achieved nothing, but what it has achieved is below expectation.
“In light of the current extraordinary circumstances in the region and the [Israeli] aggressions against the Palestinian people..and the decisions taken by two summits where boycotting Israel was stressed, all regional conferences in which Israel takes part must be boycotted,” Shara said.
He quoted French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine as saying that any European condemnation of the current Middle East violence would concern both sides, Israeli and Palestinian. Vedrine was responding to a Syrian demand that Israel should be condemned at the meeting.
Lebanon also announced it was boycotting the meeting of EU ministers and their Mediterranean counterparts, in protest against the presence of Israel.
Libya, a non-Euromed member with "special guest" or observer status on the other hand did a last-minute turnabout and sent a six-member delegation headed by its foreign minister, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, said AFP.
Until a week ago, Libyan leader Muamar Kadhafi was refusing to participate and urging other Arab nations to do likewise in protest against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, added the agency.
Vedrine, in a text prepared for delivery to the opening session Wednesday night, said confrontations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel since September 28 had stirred "disappointment, worry and anguish," according to AFP.
Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian minister for international cooperation.
was quoted on his arrival as saying that he would press for "active protection" against the "Israeli siege" in the Palestinian territories.
"We expect Europe to listen carefully to the Arab side, particularly to the Palestinians."
Shaath told AFP the Israelis had barred four members of the Palestinian delegation from coming to Marseille from the West Bank, saying those four were to have brought documents essential to the meeting.
However, Shara said at the presser the Arab presence in Marseille “would not harm coordination between the Arab states,” and revealed that Arab foreign ministers will meet next month in Damascus to follow up on the resolutions of the Arab Summit.
He stressed that Syria and Lebanon will stand hand in hand in the face of Israeli threats, attributing these to the “futile Israeli policies regarding the peace process.”
“It is natural that the rulers of Israel would think of using force...they have already used force in Lebanon, but it turned out to have bad consequences for Israel. I am confident that they will be defeated [by the Palestinians] and withdraw from the Palestinian lands,” he said.
Asked about Syrian field preparation for expected Israel hostilities, Shara said that “resistance is something different from war. Resistance is legitimate, using all the available means. However, we threaten no one and demand that UN resolutions be implemented.”
On Syria's relations with Iraq, Shara said the two countries are moving step by step towards restoring ties severed 20 years ago.
In February, Iraq opened an interests section within the Algerian embassy in Damascus.
“The section will develop into full diplomatic representation,” the minister said.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)