Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280 - 289)



  Q280  Lord Chidgey: Because inevitably it seems to me that because of US foreign policy towards the Middle East there are many, many countries which automatically oppose the US's ambitions because of their relationship with Israel and I wondered if it undermined the Saudis' position to have a greater role because of their closeness with the US, or not; I ask you?

  Dr Solana: Very important things are taking place. I do not know if you have read the statement of the last meeting in Kuwait between the four Arab countries and Dr Rice. It is a very important statement and it is worth reading. It was not published in our press for reasons which I do not know but it is very important because this is the bargain of the four countries saying we will help you in Iraq; you will help us trying to get Palestinians moving, and we will continue working to stop Tehran. These are the three elements of the agreement, which is a very important statement. It is not set out as clearly as I describe it but that is the content of that agreement. That was signed in Kuwait less than a month ago. It is an important division of labour in a sense. Is everybody going to play his part in the bargain? We will see.

  Q281  Chairman: Secretary-General, we only have a limited amount of time.

  Dr Solana: I have an infinite amount of time.

  Chairman: Three of my colleagues are anxious to get in and I am going to call them in the order of Lord Lea, Lord Crickhowell and Baroness Symons.

  Q282  Lord Lea of Crondall: Dr Solana, we have all been very impressed by the scope and detail of your picture. When we started our inquiry we had a bit of a debate about whether what we were looking at was just Israel/Palestine in some sense or the broader picture. We cannot go away from this morning without realising that Iran for example, Damascus for example, Riyadh, Mecca, Egypt, all of these things are part of the picture. Would you comment on whether that is a correct understanding of the jigsaw that you are painting? Could you characterise it in this sense: is this partly because of the Shia/Sunni question or bringing Syria back into the Arab world in some sense or the other way round, saying that the bigger crisis in actually in the short term Iran/Israel and that we cannot other than see all these things in a collective piece of architecture?

  Dr Solana:


  The Israeli-Palestinian track continues to be absolutely fundamental because the other Sunni moderate countries will not sustain public opinion on co-operating with Riyadh and co-operating with the United States or co-operating with the Europeans, et cetera, if they do not see something moving on the Palestinian track, and therefore the Palestinian track continues to be fundamental. We want to maintain this scheme. This scheme has a point of failure if nothing happens in the Palestinian/Israeli track because the leaders of the Arab countries will not behave in the manner that they are behaving now because of public opinion if they do not receive something positive on the peace process. They have to notice that we care about that process. They have to explain to their own people that we care. We may not resolve it completely but at least we have to show them we care, and that is the important thing in convincing Condi Rice to really get engaged more personally because we are already doing it.

  Q283  Chairman:


  Q284  Lord Crickhowell: Dr Solana, you have given us a fascinating account of the relationships and the developing situation in the Arab world. We have a rather weak Israeli Government. Would you like to say a little more about Israel than you have said so far?

  Dr Solana:


  Israel is a country which has a lot of complications, more than the complications that derive from the war, and you know there is a commission that is going to provide a response probably by the end of the month of March or in April and no longer. Everybody knows that the report of the Commission is going to be very tough. What is going to be the scheme after Kadima, what is going to be the future of Kadima is a question mark . The hope that we have is that the only outcome that this Government has is to jump forward; the only solution it has is to move. If they stay still they will collapse. If they move with Hamas with some steps in the direction of peace, the polls of yesterday were that 57% of the people in Israel accepted the Unity Government as something positive, so the appetite for peace is really an appetite which is growing. Do we have leaders with enough power to recognise that appetite and who have the courage to move on? We do not know really because being so long in this report is really very, very difficult, but this is an element which is there and unfortunately this is the negative element we have. We have two witnesses in the Palestinians and the Israelis. Can we construct strength out of two witnesses? The only manner we have is to jump forward to take a decision which is beneficial for both. At this point in time the only initiative that is beneficial for both is to move towards peace. That is the hope that we have and we have to work on that. That is what the Americans also have realised.

  QQ285-288  Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean:


  Q289  Chairman: Secretary-General, it has been extraordinarily valuable for us to really see what the work of the High Representative is in practice because this gives us a feel for the function of the European Union within the Quartet and more widely dealing with the problems of the Middle East. I wonder if I could just end with a final question as to whether you could see any specific things that the European Union can now do to advance the peace process, how far we should be looking towards a political horizon and how far we could take that forward, because that is what you will be discussing when you have your meeting?

  Dr Solana: I will tell you very frankly what we should do: firstly, we must maintain unity amongst ourselves. Without unity amongst ourselves it is bad. Secondly, we have to support some inches ahead of Dr Rice. Dr Rice is playing rather a bold game and I am sure she has the support of the President otherwise she would not do it but it is not clear that everybody is behind her on this issue. Therefore to help her in this issue I think it is important and what I try to do is go some inches faster or ahead so that we can create an atmosphere of trust. We have an atmosphere of trust between the two sides of the ocean which is very, very good and that allows her to continue and it allows her to push. That is what I would do.

  Chairman: Yes, Secretary-General again can I say on behalf of the Committee this has been the high point of our inquiry. We have seen European foreign policy in practice listening to you this morning and the range of activities that you have been involved in and the analysis which you have presented for us. We will be continuing with our report. We hope to be able to contribute usefully to this debate. You have helped us a great deal by showing us what can be done.

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