Solana Discusses Regional Peace Initiative During Visit to Lebanon and Egypt

Council of the European Union (Link) - Javier Solana (September 2, 2009)

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), visited Lebanon and Egypt at the end of a four-day tour of the Middle East in which he discussed efforts to prepare a prepare a new Middle East peace initiative on the sidelines of the U9 General Assembly in 9ew York in September.

Mr. Solana had meetings in Beirut on Tuesday, 1 September with President Michel Sleimane, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Prime Minister designate Saad HARIRI, Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh and Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon. He also met Lebanese politicians and representatives of civil society for a working lunch.

In Cairo, on Tuesday, 1 September, Mr. Solana had meetings with Egyptian Foreign Minister Abul Gheit and the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. On Wednesday, 2 September, he met President Hosni Mubarak and Minister Omar Soleiman.

In Beirut, Mr. Solana told reporters that the momentum towards a renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace process was building and he hoped that an initiative would be ready for the U9 General Assembly ministerial week in September: "We are working very hard to get an initiative in time for the General Assembly that can create new and dynamic peace in the region." He said that regional dialogue was essential and stressed that a robust peace initiative depended on the full engagement of the Middle Eastern countries. "The real solution is in the region. If the actors in the region take the responsibility which is needed, no doubt it will be easier." He stressed that the international community had an important role to play and that the EU would continue to be fully committed, along with the other members of the International Quartet.

Lebanon's role in bringing lasting peace to the Middle East was fundamental, said Mr. Solana: "You are an important country in the region and therefore we would like very much for you to play the role that corresponds to you." For this, it was essential for Lebanon to form a government and he was disappointed that, three months after the elections, it still did not have a cabinet. He called for a government to be formed swiftly in order to tackle the economic and social challenges facing the country. It was also very important to have a cabinet in place in time for the U9 General Assembly and with a view to strengthening ties with the EU. "I would like to make an appeal for the sake of the country's future to have a government in place soon. I hope efforts will continue to have a government which can face the problems not only of the country but also to participate actively in regional issues." But he was confident that Lebanon's security was not in danger.

The parliamentary elections had been successful and had shown that all the parties were aware of the importance of maintaining stability. Mr. Solana welcomed the constructive role played by the President in resolving the country's internal problems.

Before leaving Cairo at the end of his trip, Mr. Solana told reporters that a new opportunity had arisen to move the peace process forward and this opportunity must be seized. "A new dynamic is now being created for negotiations for a two-state solution. We must not waste this opportunity." He said a vague declaration of principles would not be enough and something much more specific and concrete was needed. An agreement on a settlement freeze was vital in order to lend credibility to the process: "It is difficult to imagine that the peace process can succeed if settlement activity is continuing." He wanted to see a breakthrough before the U9 General Assembly opened so that a process could be launched, with a timetable and benchmarks to measure progress, that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders.