Minister Cowen visits Egypt to meet Arab League
The President of the Council, Minister Brian Cowen, flies today to the Egyptian capital Cairo, to meet with the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. The visit follows the postponement of the Arab League summit meeting scheduled for Tunis on 29 - 30 March.
Minister Cowen said,
“The Taoiseach and I had been due to attend the summit on behalf of the EU Presidency. I felt it was appropriate for me to travel to the region today both as an expression of European solidarity with our Arab friends and neighbours and to give me to opportunity to say some of the things that we would have been saying in Tunis. It is important at this moment that the Arab world is seen to take charge of its own destiny. Europe is a friend and neighbour.”
The Minister continued,
“The Arab response to the two key issues – Arab-Israeli conflict and Arab development – are of profound interest to Europe and the wider world. It is crucial in regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict that Arabs do not allow Israeli actions to determine their approach. Violence will not solve the Palestinian issue. It has failed for both sides. It will not bring liberation to Palestinians, or security to Israelis.”
Minister Cowen said that on his visit that he would be calling on the Arab leaders to take three actions:
• To issue an appeal for an end to violence, particularly suicide bombings, which whatever the provocation, will not bring liberation to the Palestinians and give Israel an excuse to avoid negotiation;
• To give every support to the reestablishment of a viable Palestinian interlocutor, through political and financial support and by cutting off aid to militants;
• To re-launch the Beirut initiative, thereby making it clear to the Israeli public and the Americans that there is an alternative to unilateral action.
The Minister explained,
“The European Council for its part not only endorsed last week a set of five conditions for Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, but also issued a statement that the Union will not recognise any departure from the pre-1967 borders other than that arrived at by agreement between the parties.”
On Arab development, the Minister will stress that the Arab world has to assert control over its own development agenda. He will emphasise that the Union is ready to help and is currently working on its own initiative.
“We adopted an interim report last week on a proposed Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Our aim is the creation of a common zone of peace, progress and prosperity. The report makes clear that the initiative for development must come from within the region and that we stand ready to cooperate. It also stresses the centrality of the peace process. It makes clear that while neither reform nor progress on the peace process can be a pre-condition for the other, there can be no long term stability without the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The paper also provides some clarity on how the various EU initiatives fit together and makes clear that we are not pursuing a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”
Minister Cowen concluded,
“We will be spending the next few months talking to our partners in the Arab region before bringing a final report to the June European Council. I look forward to welcoming many Arab Foreign Ministers to the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial meeting in Dublin on 5 - 6 May.”
The Minister also hopes to meet Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister, Ahmed Maher during his visit.