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News Union for the Mediterranean summit postponed

A meeting to bring together European and Middle Eastern governments has been postponed to give Israeli-Palestinian talks time to achieve results, officials said. Israel on Friday called the reason for the delay ridiculous.

The summit of the Union for the Mediterranean was going to take place June 7 in Barcelona. Now, it has been pushed back to November, Spain's Foreign Ministry said Thursday night.

The Union for the Mediterranean brings together the 27-nation EU and 16 partner countries across the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East. It is designed to encourage economic, environmental and other kinds of cooperation.

The Foreign Ministry says the postponement was agreed by Spain and co-chair nations France and Egypt to give indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks that began recently time to prosper.

But Spanish media said the meeting has been postponed because organizers feared it might be a failure.

The newspaper El Pais says Syria and Egypt threatened to boycott it if Israel's hardline foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, attended. Lieberman heads an ultranationalist party and is known for a belligerent tone that has earned him critics abroad and inside Israel.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said his country did not understand the stated reason for the postponement.

"We don't see why an organization that aims to promote cooperation, mostly economic cooperation, among Mediterranean nations should be linked in any way to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. This linkage is simply ridiculous," said Palmor.

"Will Algeria and Morocco not talk to each other because of Israel and the Palestinians? Will Tunisia now refuse to sit with France because of Israel and the Palestinians? Will Libya and Bulgaria, or Turkey and Cyprus, stop their plans to cooperate because of Israel and the Palestinians?"

The postponement seemed to be another diplomatic setback for Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of June. An EU-U.S. summit that was to have been held this month in Madrid was called off months ago when Washington announced that President Barack Obama would not attend and had never planned to in the first place.


Spain has postponed a Union for the Mediterraneansummit with more than 40 countries that was scheduled to take place in Barcelona on 7 June.

The Spanish government, the holder of the rotating presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers, said the move was intended to give more time for indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which began on Wednesday (19 May) after more than a year. The summit has now been tentatively scheduled for the third week in November.

In a statement, the Spanish foreign ministry said: "This postponement will also give a greater amount of time for the process of Israeli-Palestinian talks, which has just been launched, to begin to yield results that will help create the right conditions to ensure the success of the summit."

A diplomat said that preparations for the summit had been overshadowed by a threat by some Arab governments to stay away if Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, attended. Lieberman is a divisive figure in Israel and with the Palestinians. Israel made it clear that it would not let other governments dictate who attended the summit.

In April, the adoption of a water-management strategy for the region had to be dropped after a dispute over references to the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel.

Another source said that Spain feared a low turnout by Mediterranean leaders.

The summit was to be the first held by the Union for the Mediterranean since its inauguration in Paris in July 2008. The union, part of the European Union's Neighbourhood Policy, is supposed to link the EU to the countries of the Maghreb, the Levant and the Balkans. It is co-chaired by France and Egypt and has its secretariat in Barcelona. 


Contact information n/a
News type Inbrief
File link
Source of information European Voice/ AP News
Keyword(s) UfM, Union for the Mediterranean
Geographical coverage Euromed
News date 08/06/2010
Working language(s) ENGLISH