25 February, 2003
Article by FM Mr. George A. Papandreou in The Wall Street Journal Europe (24/02/2003) entitled "A Cycle of Peace for the Middle East"
A Cycle of Peace for the Mideast
The situation in Iraq has triggered a serious crisis in international affairs. But crises often create opportunities. Crises allow deeper issues and challenges to surface, and it is these challenges we must now collectively address.
It is with this in mind that the Greek presidency of the European Union has invited Mahmoud Hammoud and Amre Moussa, the current chairman and secretary-general of the Arab League, to a meeting with EU foreign ministers tonight. This meeting symbolizes a possible new partnership that can develop and in particular contribute to a diplomatic resolution to the Iraqi crisis.
What is truly at stake is the need to create new methods for tackling new security challenges, more effective tools of multilateralism for our globalizing world, and improved channels of constructive dialogue between civilizations.
The Arab world may be the most effective broker in persuading Saddam Hussein to comply fully with his disarmament obligations. But the international community must reassure the Arab world that we are being even-handed in our quest for global security. There is now a danger that the Middle East peace process will be overshadowed by the Iraqi crisis, risking further violence, exclusion and terrorism in the region.
As with Iraq, we must address this problem with candor, courage, and foresight, acting as an honest broker, while gradually allowing the region to own the process. At last week's extraordinary summit in Brussels, EU leaders made it clear that the Middle East peace process must be kick-started immediately. The Quartet's so-called road map must be published and implemented without further delay. This will convince Middle Eastern countries that our long-term desire to foster peace and stability in the region is genuine.
The road map calls for the recognition of the Palestinian state by 2005; it calls for an end to settlements; it calls for the reform of the Palestinian authority allowing all Palestinians to participate fully in transparent institutions; it calls for an immediate end to suicide bombings against Israeli citizens. The EU also welcomed the recent announcement of a prime minister's position by Yasser Arafat is a positive step. We continue to welcome Arab-led peace initiatives such as the Saudi plan and the Cairo talks.
Iraq is emblematic of the new security challenges the world faces. After two reports the message from Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei is the need for further clarification from the Iraqi regime. Mr. Blix has also demanded, in a four-page letter, that Iraq start destroying its liquid-fuel al-Samoud II missiles and its engines, warheads and component parts, by March 1. We must ensure Saddam Hussein is neutralized and can never again threaten the stability of the Middle East.
The question has been how to do so. Iraq is not the only country that flouts international order and the rule of law. Iraq will set a critical precedent in how we deal with other irresponsible states who possess weapons of mass destruction or endorse terrorism. We must work together to find new, sharper tools with which to neutralize these new threats, assuming war is always the last resort. Otherwise we will have perennial pre-emptive military strikes.
The countries in the region have made a convincing case that it is the world -- not just the U.S. or the EU -- that will have to deal with the humanitarian and political consequences of an invasion of Iraq. The alternative will be a fragmented world, crippled by its divisions.
This in no way means that we must allow inaction to be legitimated. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 has so far yielded significant results. We have succeeded in strengthening the inspection regime, backed by the credible threat of force. This is entirely consistent with the Charter of the United Nations, which has guided the management of global security since its inception. It is also consistent with the founding premise of the European Union, which was created to build lasting peace on a continent ravaged by war. Obviously, multilateralism takes on a new dimension in a world with a single, acknowledged military superpower. This should translate into addressing global problems through global institutions and backing them with whatever force we have.
Iraq will also be a test case in our fight to defend democracy, fundamental freedoms, and human rights world-wide. These values apply equally to the brutalized population of Iraq, to a Palestinian who seeks statehood, and to an Israeli citizen who lives in fear of terror. The Iraqi regime is the antithesis of democracy as we know it. Saddam Hussein has demonstrated utter disdain for his own people, who suffer tyranny and yearn for democracy. He has flouted the wishes of his neighbors in the Arab world, who seek peace and stability. But as much as we would like democracy and stability to thrive in the world, they cannot be imposed. They must be nurtured.
The cycle of violence can be supplanted by a cycle of peace. This is what people in the region want. In Europe, the U.S. and the Arab world, this can become a common vision. Working together, we can ensure that the next steps taken to resolve the Iraqi crisis lead to sustainable peace across the Middle East.
As Europe is enlarging, our common borders are multiplying and we are eager to forge stronger ties between Europe and the Arab world in the long term. With our experience of integrating conflict-ridden areas and peoples that have lived under authoritarianism into the European community, with our experience in democratic institution-building and conflict resolution, the European Union can serve as a role model for other regions, in particular the Middle East.