Spain eyes new Mideast peace conference

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MADRID: Spain plans to float the idea of a Mideast peace conference, similar to that held in Madrid in 1991, at a meeting this week of ministers from Mediterranean countries, diplomatic sources said Friday.

The suggestion could be made at the Mediterranean Forum (Foromed) meeting in Alicante in southeast Spain being held Friday and Saturday and attended by ministers from 11 states.

The forum is a consultative body associated with the so-called Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean process, a framework for political, economic and social relations in the region.

A declaration is due to be issued at the end of the meeting, to be attended by foreign ministers or their deputies from Algeria, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and Tunisia. Libya has observer status. Spain s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told the country s parliament this week that the roadmap for a search for peace in the Middle East was no longer adequate and that a major initiative, of the type of the 1991 Madrid conference, now appeared necessary.

The October 1991 Madrid conference was attended by Israel and Arab states under the aegis of the United States and the Soviet Union.

It set out a framework for a Middle East peace process and opened the way to the 1993 Oslo accords on Palestinian self-rule.

Moratinos knows the region well, has been a European Union special envoy and visited the area frequently recently.

He told the Spanish parliament that it was still too early to say where or in what framework a new conference might be held. But he made clear Spain would again be a candidate to host it.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could visit Madrid at the end of November for talks on the issue, the daily El Mundo said this week.

Moratinos told the parliament that the definition of peace initiatives would be a major topic at the Alicante meeting, which will also touch on issues linked to the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, among them the creation of an organization to finance businesses in the region.

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