European and Islamic Nations Divided Over Condemnation of Israel

Published February 13th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

On Wednesday, leaders from European and Islamic nations struggled to take a united stance on Israel with the two blocs widely disagreeing on whether to condemn Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets, reported AP.  


Government ministers from 72 different countries from Europe and the Organization of the Islamic Conference assembled in Turkey to “bridge gaps” between the Muslim world and the West in view of the September 11 attacks and address Islamic concerns that the attacks have made the West more prejudiced against Muslims.  


The two-day meeting began on Tuesday and early on addressed the contentious Mideast conflict.  


For their part, Islamic nations were urging for a strong condemnation of Israel in a final statement to be released later Wednesday, a EU diplomat said on condition of anonymity. European nations and host country Turkey were against condemning a country that is not present to defend itself.  


Moreover, there was debate over a Turkish proposal to hold regular summits among EU and Islamic countries' ministers, with much of the European nations objecting to institutionalizing such meetings, the diplomat added.  


"The spirit of Istanbul will live on," British Foreign Minister Jack Straw announced.  


Furthermore, Islamic nations called upon the Europeans to be more involved in efforts to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while European officials sketched out a Mideast peace plan, still being worked over, that would call for the immediate recognition of a Palestinian state.  


However, the European plan differs from Washington’s stance that a Palestinian crackdown on militants and a cease-fire must come before a peace proposal can be implemented.  


"The Europeans think there is no solution in the current policies of the Israeli government," said French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, who created the Mideast plan.  


During the meetings, European ministers emphasized a common foundation on which to work with Islamic countries, but also highlighted Europe's attachment to such issues as women's rights and the abolition of capital punishment.  


Islamic ministers expressed sympathy for the United States over the September 11 attacks, however added that US policies since the attacks were more likely to cause rifts, rather than unite.  


Furthermore, Arab leaders explained that definitions of what constitutes terrorism made it harder to solve the region's problems. There is a "need to differentiate between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of people against foreign occupation," said Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud, in reference to the Palestinian uprising, Intifada. He also condemned what he called "Israel's blatant state terrorism."  


US and European leaders continuously have pointed out that the campaign against terrorism that began in Afghanistan is not directed at Islam. However, many Muslim countries have responded skeptically, saying that United States President George W. Bush's comments on Iraq and Iran, and close US relations with Israel, are evidence of a wider bias against Islam. ( 


© 2002 Al Bawaba (

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