In a sign of growing frustration at diplomatic inaction as Israeli-Palestinian violence escalates, Spain, France and Italy yesterday unveiled a five-point peace initiative, taking Britain by surprise.And why would some of Europe's leading countries move on this without Britain?
Downing Street confirmed last night that it had not been consulted and had no prior knowledge of the plan, which envisages a leading role for Europe in ending the conflict. Foreign Office sources said they had first learned of it from a news item on the BBC.
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain's prime minister, announced the initiative at a summit with Jacques Chirac, the French president, in the Catalan city of Girona, near the French border. "We cannot remain impassive in the face of the horror that continues to unfold before our eyes," Mr Zapatero told a news conference after the meeting. "Violence has reached a level of deterioration that requires determined, urgent action by the international community." Italy also backs the initiative, he added.
One particular cause of frustration has been the American veto, last Saturday, of a security council resolution condemning Israel in the wake of an artillery attack in Gaza which killed 18 Palestinian civilians. France, a permanent member of the council, voted in favour, describing its text as "balanced", but Britain abstained.
The plan announced yesterday has five components: an immediate ceasefire; formation of a national unity government by the Palestinians that can gain international recognition; an exchange of prisoners, including the Israeli soldiers whose seizure sparked the war in Lebanon and fighting in Gaza this summer; talks between Israel's prime minister and the Palestinian president; and an international mission in Gaza to monitor a ceasefire.
... the public announcement of the initiative without informing Britain beforehand could be viewed as an attempt by Spain, France and Italy to outflank Tony Blair, whose Middle East policies are closer to those of Washington.And you can bet that Steve "I'm on the world stage" Harper didn't hear anything about this either.
Yo Blair! Hitched your wagon to a real star didn't you?