Spain Pledges Help in Jumpstarting Mideast Peace Process

Latin America Herald Tribune (Link) (September 3, 2009)

King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero expressed on Wednesday to the Palestinian president Spain�s desire to help jumpstart the Middle East peace process.

Mahmoud Abbas, who had already visited the Spanish capital at the beginning of the year, met with Zapatero before heading to the Zarzuela Palace to be received by Juan Carlos and then later meeting with Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

Zapatero, according to aides, expressed Spain�s willingness to help bring about a prospective tripartite meeting involving the Palestinian National Authority chief, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, set for Sept. 24-25 in New York.

As a pre-condition for that gathering, the Obama administration has demanded a halt to Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian territories.

Moratinos will visit the Middle East next week to facilitate that meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The idea is that once dialogue has been reopened the European Union would join efforts to bring about Middle East peace, given that one of Spain�s priorities during its EU presidency in the first half of 2010 is to work to resolve the conflict.

Officials here said Abbas thanked Moratinos for the aid that Spain has provided to the Palestinian people. Spain is one of the main European donors to the Palestinian territories and the Palestine refugee population.

In March, the Iberian nation pledged to spend 180 million euros ($256 million) during the 2009-2010 period to rebuild Gaza, battered in December and January when Israel launched a three-week offensive to force Hamas to stop firing rockets into its towns.