Residents of southern Lebanon are anxious for a second round of fighting

“Union for the Mediterranean”…a road map for the future of Gaza after the war

At a time when diplomatic efforts are intensifying on multiple fronts to stop the ongoing massacre in the Gaza Strip and the unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe caused by the Israeli war, the city of Barcelona hosted on Monday the regular meeting of the “Union for Mediterranean Forum”, which includes the foreign ministers of the European Union and the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, and on the agenda there is a main point, which is drawing a road map for the future of the Gaza Strip and all of Palestine after which the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas ends.

Although it is customary to dedicate its meetings to strengthening cooperation between the member countries of the European Union and those of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, this session turned into a political forum par excellence which set a record in terms of the number of participants at the highest levels, and in the presence of the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan. As a special guest at the forum; Being President of the Ministerial Committee that emerged from the Arab-Islamic Summit which was recently held in Riyadh.

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albarez had a long meeting before the opening of the forum with his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad al-Maliki, in which they discussed the support the Palestinian National Authority needs to take over the administration of the Gaza Strip after the war. end of the war, as a responsible diplomatic source confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan during a photo commemorating the meeting of the “Union Forum for the Mediterranean” (AFP)

Asked about the statement released by “Hamas”, which describes the position of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his Belgian counterpart, Alexandre de Gru, during their recent visit to Israel as “clear and bold”, Albarez limited himself to replying: does not comment on “statements released by organisations”. “Terrorist”, and that the Spanish government has condemned from day one the operation carried out by “Hamas” on the 7th of last month.

The positions expressed by some members of the Spanish government regarding the ongoing war in Gaza had provoked a diplomatic crisis between Madrid and Tel Aviv, during which ambassadors from both sides were summoned to protest against these positions. Interestingly, the Spanish Minister of Social Rights, Elonie Pillara, had called for the Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) to be referred to the International Criminal Court for committing war crimes and genocide against the Palestinian people, and called for the separation of rights relations with Israel. In the last confidence session in which Sanchez renewed his mandate as head of government, his deputy and main ally, Yolanda Diaz, leader of the Somar party, invited him not to hesitate to take a firm position on current events in Gaza , similar to the position taken by the European Union on the war in Ukraine. During his recent visit to Israel, Sanchez told Netanyahu: “Seeing civilians killed in Gaza is an absolutely unbearable sight.” This led to the release of a statement by the Israeli government accusing Sanchez of supporting terrorism. This prompted the Spanish Foreign Ministry to invite the Israeli ambassador to inquire about these statements and to protest against them.

Josep Borrell during the Barcelona forum (EPA)

In an interview with a group of journalists on the sidelines of the forum, the Spanish Foreign Minister said: he expects clear explanations from the Israeli ambassador on the reasons that led to making those statements, which Spain considers unacceptable and unfounded, and who will ask you for guarantees so that they don’t happen again in the future. Albaris said: Israel’s accusations against Hamas of using civilians as human shields in the war cannot be an excuse to kill them.

In his speech before the forum, Minister Faisal bin Farhan highlighted the results of the extraordinary joint Arab-Islamic summit, which was held in Riyadh, and his assignment to the ministerial committee which visited many key partners around the world to convey the unifying position of Islamic and Arab nations and work to pave the way for a clear path to resolve the crisis in the Gaza Strip.

He underlined the importance of the international community giving priority to the immediate end of military operations in the Gaza Strip, ensuring the adequate and safe passage of humanitarian aid and the release of all civilian hostages. The Saudi Foreign Minister welcomed the truce agreement reached, stressing that it is a positive development and allows the safe passage of urgent humanitarian aid, but it is not enough for all aid to enter Gaza, unless the truce is not followed by a comprehensive agreement and definitive cessation of military operations. He said: “The continued escalation in the Gaza Strip has led to more destruction, extremism and more killings of innocent people, and threatens regional security,” underlining that the Kingdom condemns all forms of violence and targeting of civilians since the beginning of the conflict. the crisis and, despite this, the military operations conducted by Israeli forces have intensified with total disregard for civilian lives and with the inertia of international organizations. He underlined the importance of making serious efforts to overcome the current crisis in the Gaza Strip and of moving towards a serious and credible plan to relaunch the peace process, guaranteeing the creation of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state in which dignities are achieved and prosperity for the population. brotherly Palestinian people.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry today in Barcelona (Reuters)

Bin Farhan also met with his Italian counterpart, Antonio Taiani, and discussed with him the importance of adhering to the humanitarian truce with a comprehensive and sustainable ceasefire to ensure the protection of civilians and the return of security and stability to the Strip of Gaza. The Saudi minister stressed that there is no alternative to the two-state solution to resolve the conflict.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan also met with the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna, on the sidelines of the “Union for the Mediterranean Forum”. The Saudi Press Agency said that during the meeting they discussed the situation in and around the Gaza Strip, efforts made for a sustainable ceasefire to ensure the protection of civilians and the importance of consolidating the truce and to build on it, as well as discuss many topics of common interest, in a way that enhances the security and stability of the Middle East and the world. The Saudi Foreign Minister underlined the importance of intensifying international efforts to commit to applying the norms of international law and international humanitarian law and to return to the path of peace to ensure the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state, in accordance with relevant international standards. resolutions.

Bin Farhan had chaired the ministerial commission appointed by the Arab-Islamic summit during the meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the forum, where he had underlined the need to try to overcome the current crisis in the Gaza Strip and to work towards a credible solution peace plan to end a catastrophic situation, underlining that there is no alternative, on the two-state solution and on the recognition of the Palestinian state.

Perhaps the biggest absentee at the “Union for the Mediterranean Forum” meeting was Israel, which informed mid-week that it would not participate on the pretext that the agenda had been changed without consulting it to limit it to war in Gaza.

For weeks, Spanish diplomacy has been in difficulty in the context of the presidency of the European Union, which ends at the end of next month. To prevent the gap caused by this war between the Western and Islamic world from widening, as stated by one of the Spanish diplomats in charge of managing and coordinating these efforts on multiple fronts.

The forum saw a heated and lively debate from the Arab delegations, who made it clear that they did not agree to include in the final statement a reference to Israel’s right to defend itself after the attacks on the 7th of last month, while Germany expressed reservations about the ceasefire call and supported the call for truces. Diplomatic efforts tended to focus on convening an international conference to resolve the conflict on the basis of a two-state solution and mutual recognition between Israelis and Palestinians, an initiative adopted by the European Union and supported by the League of Arab States. and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which was present at the forum but met with Israeli refusal.

For his part, European foreign policy official Josep Borrell said: The biggest challenge is the situation that the Gaza Strip will find itself in after the end of the war, not only in terms of the massive destruction that has eliminated the infrastructure of base, but also after the dismantling of “Hamas”, responsible for the civil administration for the inhabitants of Gaza. Borrell said: The European Union is willing to entrust this task to the United Nations until the Palestinian National Authority is able to take it on.

Borrell had categorically denied that this forum meeting was a “conspiracy against Israel.”

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