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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Relancer la paix ou préparer la guerre au Proche-Orient?

by Françoise Germain-Robin

Reviving Peace or Preparing for War in the Middle East?

Translated Monday 5 February 2007, by John O’Neil

Diplomacy. Bush is going to ask the "Quartet" to approve his plan to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process while he muses about attacking Iran.

The members of the "Quartet" (The European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States) are meeting in Washington to examine and without a doubt approve the plan concocted by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to attempt to restart the application of the "Road Map" for peace between Israel and Palestine.

This US-inspired peace plan, launched already four years ago, provided for the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The prospect of this state, which should have been born in 2005, keeps getting further away now as the White House team implements an imperial policy which, instead of peace, has brought armed chaos throughout the region.

Does this Washington meeting have a chance of stopping this race to the bottom of the pit? That is what Foreign Affairs Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy called it this week, speaking of a "rise in explosive power of the risks in the Middle East" and pointing to "the centrality" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would seem that the other members of the quartet are coming to share this position. After his visit to the Palestinian Territories last week, European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana expressed his view that the continued construction of an Israeli wall in the West Bank risks making the creation of a Palestinian state and thus, peace in the Middle East, impossible.

It remains to be seen whether the United States is ready to advance in this regard. Condoleezza Rice has changed her position slightly. Whereas Washington and Tel-Aviv had always made the total cessation of violence - i.e., for them, the Palestinian armed struggle - the condition of the resumption of the fundamental discussions about borders and settlements, the Secretary of State proposed that they move directly to negotiations. And she’s asking for the Quartet members’ approval before her meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas in mid-February in Washington.

She should obtain this approval since there is general concern vis-a-vis the aggravation of the situation, not only in Gaza and in the West Bank, but in the entire region, particularly in Iraq and Iran.

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov intends to demand explanations from the Bush administration about the considerable build-up of US forces in the Gulf in recent weeks and "Washington’s aggressive rhetoric toward Iran". Because one should not permit the approval sought by the Bush administration, to reopen a moribund peace process between Israel and Palestine, to serve as propoganda in preparations for a new military venture, this time against Iran.

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