EU to mediate in Middle East

European Foreign Ministers to discuss how to diffuse “imminent threat” to Arab-Isreaeli peace process.

Two new, as yet unpublished, EU studies paint an exceedingly grim picture of the situation in the Middle East. They warn of the impending collapse of the economy and administration in the Palestinian territories, mainly due to the economic sanctions and blockade imposed by Israel in the wake of the recent outbreak of violence.

EU representatives feel that such a collapse would form an "imminent threat" to the peace process. External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten has also requested that the EU make more money available to the Palestinians. At least 30 million euro a month will be needed according to the World Bank. Israel suspended transfers of tax and customs reciepts to the Palestinian Authority in the autumn of 2000 and international donors have been making up the difference since then.

Hopes of a lasting peace seem to have dimmed even further after Likud hard-liner Ariel Sharon's recent landslide election victory. EU envoys to the region have recommended that the Union intervene "quickly and decisively" by increasing the "political pressure" on Israel. This may be one solution, given that the EU is the largest donor of non-military aid in the Middle East.

EU Foreign Ministers are to meet on February 26th to discuss how to proceed in this matter, but comments make it clear that no one is optimistic about a solution in the short term.

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