Mediterranean union launched: 43-nation group plans regional projects
Emulating the European Union model 43 countries in Middle east have come together and formed a Mediterranean Union. Although unlike European countries many of these countries don't have great relations with each other.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy launched a 43-nation Union for the Mediterranean on Sunday with a plea for Middle Eastern countries to emulate Europe’s model of reconciliation and integration.
The ceremonial inaugural summit at the lofty iron-and-glass Grand Palais in Paris sealed a new detente between Syria and Europe, with the Syrian and Israeli leaders also sitting at the same table for the first time.
“Everyone will have to make an effort, as the Europeans did, to put an end to the deadly spiral of war and violence, that, century after century, repeatedly brought barbarity to the heart of civilisation,” Sarkozy said in the keynote speech.
But there was no handshake and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared to go out of his way to avoid Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, hiding his face behind his arm as he walked past where the Israeli leader was standing.
An Olmert aide said Assad left the meeting room before the Israeli prime minister delivered a speech on water cooperation.
An Israeli spokesman said Olmert used a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to convey a message that Israel was serious about seeking peace with Syria. But a Syrian official denied that Assad received any message via Erdogan.
A Turkish official said both leaders had reconfirmed to Erdogan their will to continue the negotiations, but he would not go into specifics on any messages.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, co-president of the summit, told the leaders they must work together to meet the challenges of food, education and health for their growing populations.
“I am sure that today is a start. I am sure that we have a long way to go and we will go a long way,” he said.
On a day rich in political gestures, Sarkozy hosted cordial talks with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, capped with an effusive triple handshake and a joint news conference.
“The goal of this summit for the Mediterranean, of this Union for the Mediterranean, is that we learn to love each other instead of continuing to hate each other and wage war,” Sarkozy said, flanked by Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.For Assad, Sunday’s summit signalled a spectacular emergence from isolation in the West three years after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, which many believe was orchestrated from Damascus.
The red-carpet treatment was partly a reward for Syria’s backing of a Qatar-brokered peace deal that pulled Lebanon back from the brink of civil war in May, and for starting indirect peace talks with Israel via Turkish mediation.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she told Assad at a private meeting: “We’ve heard enough words exchanged, now we want to see deeds.”—Reuters