Spanish FM: Europe to Reassess Relationship With PA

Moratinos calls for new negotiations, says idea of placing international force in PA was raised in Taba talks.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos told Haaretz on Tuesday that the unity government between Hamas and Fatah "is a positive step" which demands that the countries of Europe re-examine their stance on the Palestinian Authority.

Moratinos specifically praised articles in the unity government agreement in which Hamas promises to accept the Arab peace initiative mentioned in the road map, honor agreements between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel, and cooperate with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in negotiations with Israel.

Still, Moratinos stressed that Europe will "have to examine the new document thoroughly and bring it for discussion in European forums."

Moratinos, the European statesman most involved in the peace process over the last 15 years, has called for an immediate resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon.

The Spanish politician, who has served as Spain's ambassador to Israel and as the European Union envoy to the Middle East, said that he has never been as worried about the situation in the area.

"We have before us the chronicle of a predictable tragedy," he said. "If we don't all make an effort, we are marching directly to catastrophe."

Moratinos said that his two visits to Damascus in recent months have given him the impression that Syrian President Bashar Assad is interested in reaching a peace settlement with Israel in which it would return the Golan Heights to Syria.

He explained that Assad is interested in rescuing Syrians "from the isolation in which they find themselves since the assassination of [former Prime Minister Rafik] Hariri."

Moratinos disagreed with the assessment that Syria's relationship with Iran is a strategic interest that Syria has no intention of breaking off.

According to him, Syria is worried about its international standing and is seeking to win the attention of the international community and thus escape its current isolation.

Moratinos said the bombing attempt in the U.S. embassy in Damascus on Tuesday provided additional proof for the need to remove Syria from the circle of terror and bring it into the circle of peace.

According to Moratinos, Syria does not object to the deployment of forces along its border with Lebanon. He said Syria had even announced to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan that it intends to place one of its own battalions on the border in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Hezbollah.

The new Spanish troops joining the UN Interim Force in Lebanon will most probably be positioned close to the border area, and according to Moratinos, the force will work to thwart any attempt to smuggle weapons from Syria to Hezbollah.

He added, however, that Spanish troops would not disarm Hezbollah militants.

The Spanish foreign minister does not rule out the possibility that after the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, the model of an international force currently used in Lebanon would be deployed within it, upon the parties' request, in order to maintain peace.

Moratinos also said that peace negotiations in Taba, Egypt in 2001 contained an article on the deployment of a peace force in the areas evacuated by Israel, adding that the idea is not a new one.