LONDON - The European Union has indicated for the first time that it accepts Israel's version of the Karine A weapons ship affair and believes Iran and the Palestinian Authority colluded in the operation.
Javier Solana, the EU foreign affairs and security chief, told the European Parliament at Strasbourg that the union believes there will shortly be evidence of the cooperation between Iran and the Palestinians, and this is a substantial change in the Middle East conflict.
In a briefing to European parliamentarians on Tuesday, Solana said it appears that the Karine A was "the link between Iran and the PA" and "such a connection had not existed for many years."
Solana said the Palestinians "appeared to have access to much more powerful weapons than was accepted until now." The discovery of the weapons ship by Israel and the Israeli reaction have created a lack of trust and the gap between the two sides now seems impossible to bridge, Solana said.
In his original speech, Ha'aretz has learned, Solana did not plan to raise the subject, but he diverted from his written text to include the remarks about the ship.
Earlier Israel had presented Solana and other top EU officials with documented evidence on how the Iranians and the Palestinians were involved in smuggling the arms.
The negotiations began in September 2000 and were held alternately in Moscow and in Lebanon. Israel presented EU officials with intelligence reports and photographs and the names of the Iranians and Palestinians involved.
The weapons provided by the Iranians were worth some $15 million, according to unconfirmed reports, and they were partly funded by Saudi Arabia.
Sources in Solana's bureau say he believes in the Iranian-PA connection. He has asked Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for an explanation and insisted that he bring all those responsible to trial.