Thursday, November 16, 2006

Spain, Italy and France to devise new Mideast peace initiative

By The Associated Press

Spain will sponsor a new Middle East peace initiative along with France and Italy, the Spanish prime minister said Thursday, stressing that the international community cannot remain idle as violence rages between Israel and the Palestinians.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced the initiative at a summit with President Jacques Chirac of France. "Peace between Israel and the Palestinians means to a large extent peace on the international scene," Zapatero told a news conference.

The peace plan will be presented to an EU summit next month, Zapatero said, adding he hopes to win the backing of Britain and Germany as well.

He said it had five components: an immediate cease-fire, formation of a national unity government by the Palestinians that can gain international recognition, an exchange of prisoners - including the Israel Defense Forces soldiers whose kidnapping sparked the war in Lebanon and fighting in Gaza this summer - talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and an international mission in Gaza to monitor a cease-fire.

"We cannot remain impassive in the face of the horror that continues to unfold before our eyes," Zapatero said.

"When I arrived, Zapatero said to me 'we have the same vision of problems and concerns over the Middle East and particularly Palestine. We should take a common initiative'," Chirac told businessmen and professors.

"Our three countries have the sensitivity, the same interests and the same morals and maybe we can play a part in working out a solution to the Palestinian problem and putting it into action," he said.
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