Spain: Mideast 'Road Map' Isn't Working

One of Europe's foremost voices on the Middle East said Tuesday the "road map" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is doomed, and that a major new initiative is needed to resolve the conflict.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told a parliamentary panel that Europe has a historic opportunity to take the lead in pushing for fresh talks, and hinted that it was too late to revive the U.S.-backed blueprint for peace known as the "road map."

He said Europe must lead the effort to push both sides back to the table, working in conjunction with the United States.

"Everyone agrees that sooner or later there will be a peace conference," he said. "I can say that the government is discussing and sharing ideas and proposals, even with the United States, in reference to paths for the future of the region."

The road map, launched in 2003, envisioned a Palestinian state alongside Israel but stalled almost from the outset because neither side met their initial commitments. Relations between the Israelis and Palestinians soured further following the election of a Hamas-led Palestinian government earlier this year. Hamas has refused to rescind its call for Israel's destruction.

"It is necessary that this diplomatic initiative be led by the European Union, not with small, gradual steps, but with a major initiative that has great scope," said Moratinos, a former EU envoy to the Middle East who is considered to have excellent contacts throughout the region.

Moratinos said the talks should involve Syria — a longtime foe of Washington — and that Iran's nuclear program would also need to be addressed at such a conference.

The presence of Iran means new talks would have to be "much more sophisticated" than in the past, Moratinos said. He did not specify whether he felt Iran should be directly involved in the talks.

Moratinos has long offered to have Spain play a role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, but has had little response from either side in recent years.

Spain hosted a landmark Middle East peace conference in 1991, bringing together Israel and many of its Arab enemies for the first time. Those talks helped lay the foundation for the Oslo peace process, which resulted in the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.

Moratinos said Middle East peace will top the agenda at a meeting Friday and Saturday in the Spanish resort city of Alicante that will bring together foreign ministers from southern European and African countries bordering the Mediterranean.

He described the U.S.-backed "road map" for peace in the Middle East as stalled.

"I don't think the road map is the best path to get out of the stagnation. I don't think it is in condition now to resurrect the Middle East peace process, nor do I think small confidence-building measures can work," he said.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will visit Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, and meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas next week. Solana is to assess efforts in trying to revive the peace process.