Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260
FRIDAY 23 MARCH 2007
MR ROBERT COOPER AND MR CHRISTIAN JOURET
Q260 Lord Hannay of Chiswick:
Carrying on on this point, in turning to the Israeli side of the
equation, where one would seem to have a rather weak government
which has great difficulty in coming to terms with the way this
debate is now moving, do you not think that rather than struggling
to get a formal negotiating or dialogue process between Israel
and whatever bits of institutions the Palestinians form, we may
have to settle for an indirect process in the early stages of
working on the political horizons because it is just going to
be too difficult to get a weak Israeli Government to talk to the
people we would wish them to talk to directly?
Mr Cooper: That seems to be the way that it
is going at the moment. It is very difficult to judge what the
Israeli Government is going to do but there is one school of thought
which says that the only way out of the weakness for the Israeli
Government is actually to do something, otherwise they are doomed.
It is almost a matter of personalities when you get to that point.
As I understand it, at the moment the Israeli/Palestinian contacts,
which are really rather few and far between, are not dealing with
the big political issues at all and so Condoleezza Rice has, as
we do, contacts with both sides but it remains to be seen how
fruitful that is, too.
Q261 Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean:
Going back to the aid question, I am just interested about Saudi
aid going in. One of the great strengths of European aid was that
it was going in and being monitored on the corruption point and
that was what was giving more confidence, and Salam Fayyad was
genuinely trying to clean up the act, but how are the Saudis giving
Mr Cooper: I do not know.
Q262 Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean:
This is a really important question because this goes back to
this whole question of reinforcing corruption or cleaning up corruption
and you have got the whole imbalance between Fatah. Of course
we encouraged the elections but the fact was the way that Fatah
ran its elections it was obviously going to lose because of the
use of lists and everything else. We have got a real problem now
with on the one hand relying on the Arab states giving aid and
the other hand trying to deal with the corruption issue, and there
is a real problem with how you run elections.
Mr Cooper: I was not saying that we were relying
on the Arab states giving aid; they just are. Christian, you know
more about the Saudi aid than I do.
Mr Jouret: Just one thing, the Saudis pledged
$1 billion for the Palestinians during the Mecca negotiations
and we were told last week by the Saudis themselves that it is
still somewhere in Saudi Arabia, so they cannot give their money
because they cannot go through the normal international financial
system. They have a problem and the only solution for them for
the moment is to put their money in our Temporary International
Mechanism, in our system, but they are a bit reluctant to do so.
Q263 Lord Chidgey:
Can we move on to the institutional dimension on our list of questions.
Just picking up on the points that were made earlier about the
EU not being a state when we talked about the Quartet and so forth,
and some Member States obviously having slightly different perceptions
to others, I wonder whether we can tease out how effective the
EU's relations and activities have been in supporting the peace
process in this context in comparison with the bilateral negotiations
of individual states which are obviously now going on in parallel?
Do these relations complement each other in a consistent and coherent
way or is it the reverse; do they actually hinder the process,
while individual Member States perhaps put as a priority their
own interests rather than the interests of the EU and the Quartet,
or is it the other way round?
Mr Cooper: I think that in the case of the Israeli/Palestinian
question there is a real underlying consensus in the European
Union, so I think that it is complementary. Would it be better
if there was one single interlocutor? Maybe, but that is not the
way the world is. I do not have an impression of efforts by individual
Member States undermining the collective effort. There is one
case I suppose one could quote which is Syria where the visit
that Javier Solana made was on the understanding that he would
be (I hope sole but we will see how that works out) the sole but
it may turn out to be principal channel of communication to Syria
because there have been a large number of rather unco-ordinated
visits to Syria and given the difficulty of dealing with Syria,
that seemed a rather ineffective way to do business there. For
the question of Israel/Palestine, I do not think that there is
really a problem except just occasionally when something happens
like when there is an election where the Palestinians can find
themselves rather overwhelmed with the numbers of European visitors.
Q264 Lord Chidgey:
Is there any evidence at all of attempts being made by the principals
in the conflict in the region trying to play one against the other
on the bilaterals rather than through the Quartet process?
Mr Cooper: The principals are very clever people
and they know well where the different tendencies lie
Q265 Lord Chidgey:
Mr Cooper:within the European Union,
but I am not sure how different that process is from working with
the Pentagon against the state department. It is what you do with
Q266 Lord Hamilton of Epsom:
Could I just pursue that a little bit further. If one of the individual
countries is talking to one of the countries in the region, are
they honour bound and are they actually feeding back what intelligence
they gain from that to a central EU point?
Mr Cooper: I would say on the whole yes. It
is not possible to vouch for everything but, for example, Christian
sees the French cables from the region and I see the British cables
from the region. The Situation Centre under William Shapcott has
a number of representatives of the intelligence services. You
never know of course whether you are receiving all of the information
but I do not feel that there is a whole lot going on that we do
not know about.
Mr Cooper and Mr Jouret, we have come to 11 o'clock and we are
expecting the Secretary-General at this time so I think, much
as we would like to continue learning from you as we have already
a great deal, we probably ought to bring this part of our conversation
to an end. Can I say on behalf of the Committee that we have very
much appreciated the opportunity, as I think we would have expected,
to have learnt a great deal this morning and to get a rather clearer
position of how it looks from the centre of the Council Secretariat.
Thank you both very much indeed for all your contributions.
Mr Cooper: We look forward to the report, as