Mediterranean summit delayed to allow Mideast dialogue

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MADRID: A summit of the Mediterranean Union planned for next month in Barcelona has been postponed to give time for progress in indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Spain said Thursday.

"The Spanish presidency of the European Union and the two co-chairs of the Mediterranean Union, Egypt and France, have agreed to postpone the summit" scheduled for June 5-7, Spain’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The three countries have agreed that the summit will be held in Barcelona in the third week of November."

Egypt and France are co-chairmen of the Mediterranean Union, while Spain hosts its headquarters in Barcelona and currently also holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

"This postponement will also give a greater amount of time for the process of Israeli-Palestinian talks, which has just been launched, to begin to yield results that will help create the right conditions to ensure the success of the summit."

It said the foreign ministers of Spain, France and Egypt will meet in Cairo on Sunday to "agree on the modalities of implementation of this decision."
Indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were launched on May 9.

The negotiations were first agreed on in March but the initiative collapsed within days when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians eventually agreed to the talks after receiving US assurances that the project would be frozen.

The first indication of uncertainty about the Barcelona summit came last week when Israel’s far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman insisted he would attend despite a reported Arab threat to boycott the talks over his planned presence.

The 43-nation Mediterranean Union was established in 2008 in Paris by France and Egypt in a bid to foster cooperation in one of the world’s most volatile regions.

But it was temporarily mothballed in early 2009 because of tensions caused by Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, talks in Barcelona between Mediterranean Union members aimed at adopting a water management strategy for the region ended in failure due to a row between Israel and Arab countries over a reference to the Palestinian territories.

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