Sarkozy opens Euromed summit with appeal for peace (Lead)

July 13th, 2008 - 11:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, July 13 (DPA) French President Nicolas Sarkozy Sunday opened the founding summit meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean with an appeal for peace in the Middle East. “The success and failure of everything we undertake with each other will depend first and foremost on the ability of each and every one of us to truly share,” Sarkozy told more than 40 heads of state and government from the European Union (EU) and from countries along the Mediterranean Basin.

“This means building increasingly close solidarity, with respect for one another.”

Among those present in Paris were Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

The union’s co-president with Sarkozy, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said the EU should help promote growth in the Mediterranean or face a massive influx of immigrants in the future.

“What will be the situation in the Mediterranean, in particular on the southern shores, in 2030 or 2050? And what consequences will that have on our partners on the northern shores?” he said, noting that the area’s population was projected to grow from the current 272 million to 332 million in 2020.

At the summit, terrorism and a nuclear-free Middle East were among the stumbling blocks of a joint declaration to be issued at its conclusion, according to a draft copy of the declaration seen by DPA.

One contentious paragraph called for the “condemnation of terrorism in all its form and manifestation and their (leaders) and the determination to eradicate it and combat its sponsors”.

Another addressed a “common aspiration” to “pursue a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological”.

Israel is the only Middle Eastern country which is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal.

Tough discussions were also expected on the exact scope and power structure of the union, which Sarkozy devised as a means of strengthening relations between the EU and its southern neighbours around the Mediterranean basin.

The exact location of its secretariat, which would identify and follow up projects that are of common interest to the region, was also unclear.

The Union for the Mediterranean is designed to revamp the EU’s 13-year-old southern neighbourhood policy, which is known as the Barcelona Process.

The EU’s executive, the European Commission, says it has already spent some 8 billion euros ($12.7 billion) on Barcelona between 1995 and 2007, and plans to invest a further 9 billion euros over the next six years.

But the new union hopes to also attract private investors by focusing on concrete projects.

Among them plans for “motorways of the sea”, a belt of solar power plants, a programme to help cope with natural disasters and the creation of an agency to promote medium-sized businesses.

Ahead of the launch in Paris, Sarkozy held joint talks with Olmert and Abbas, who spoke of their hopes of moving closer to peace.

“We are learning to like, rather than hate, each other,” Sarkozy said ahead of the launch.

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