Dissent between Israel and the Arab countries yesterday on Monday prevented the publication of a final joint declaration at the Euro-Mediterranean summit in Barcelona. Nevertheless, the 35 EU, North African and Middle Eastern countries attending the summit issued a Code of Conduct on Countering Terrorism, after overcoming some of their differences.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who hosted the conference, said later that the code was "a very significant step forward indeed... It's as strong a statement as you can possibly have on the unified determination to fight terrorism in all its forms."
Blair had tried to draft a formal "Common Vision" statement on the EU's plan to revamp relations with countries in the area by linking aid more directly to democratic, economic and political reforms. He was forced to drop this.
Israel objected to part of the draft summary referring to the "road map," and in particular to a paragraph linking it to the 2002 Beirut declaration that was based on the Saudi Middle East peace plan and that the Arabs interpret as giving all refugees the right of return.
Israel agreed merely to a general mention of the road map and support for two national states.
In the two-page code, the Euro-Mediterranean partners reiterate their "total condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and our determination to eradicate it." They say terrorism is a "global challenge" that requires international cooperation to stop the actions of terrorists and disrupt their networks.
Speaking to reporters, French President Jacques Chirac said the EU rallied Israel and its neighbors around such a declaration "because they too are the victims of terrorism."
Officials said one practical effect of the code's adoption will be more law enforcement cooperation across the Euro-Mediterranean area.
At the summit, the EU and Israel struggled to win Arab support for the code, arguing that terrorism can never be justified. The talks almost collapsed when Arab delegates pushed for language that effectively said those living "under foreign occupation" might legally resort to force to gain freedom - a thinly veiled reference to the Israeli presence in the West Bank.
The spat was resolved by removing a contentious section dealing with the right to self-determination and the fact that "terrorist attacks cannot be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance."
The code that was agreed on commits the EU, Israel and its neighbors to "prevent terrorists accessing money and weapons, to disrupt their plans and disrupt their networks and to bring them to justice by strengthening international cooperation."
It adds that the response to terrorism must be "proportionate and solidly anchored within international and domestic legal frameworks that ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms."
During the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the new German chancellor, Angela Merkel, Chirac, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and the foreign ministers of Britain, Holland, Austria, Turkey and Egypt.
Olmert stressed that Israel had taken "the biggest step" in the Middle East by disengaging from the Gaza Strip and that it was now the turn of the Palestinians to begin fighting terrorism.
Responding to a call for dialogue from Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara, Olmert said: "What dialogue is he referring to? Every time I spoke, he left the hall."
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