NEW YORK, Feb 4: The international leaders gathered in New York for the World Economic Forum have warned repeatedly that the Bush administration cannot expect to win a global war on terrorism if does not deal head-on with the Middle East, and despite some signs of new dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, progress remains elusive.
In several meetings and seminars the world leaders continued to underscore that the United States should prod Israel’s hard-line Prime Minister Aril Sharon to initiate dialogue with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat presently confined by Israeli army to Ramallah in the occupied territories.
The Bush administration is facing pressure from its European and Arab allies to adopt a more moderate position as against aligning itself completely with the position taken by Mr Sharon.
“Our objective is and must be a just resolution to the central conflict that has put the brake on progress in the Middle East, and has spread extremism throughout the world,” King Abdullah II of Jordan told more than 2,000 politicians, business leaders and scholars on Sunday afternoon. “The international community must address itself to solve without delay the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
At a discussion of the threat of chemical and biological terrorism and nuclear proliferation, a panel with strong Arab representation agreed that “the Israeli-Palestinian sword” had to be sheathed and Israeli settlements dismantled “if there is not to be a degree of motivation that will make further terrorist attacks inevitable,” as one participant put it.
The Turkish foreign minister, Ismail Cem, declared simply at a seminar on Friday, “It seems that it’s a process of mutual suicide, a suicidal process which is taking part for both nations.”
Javier Solana, director of foreign policy and security for the European Union, spoke of “our frustration, our sadness” at the stalemate, and said the international community had the obligation “to get engaged and to get engaged rapidly, and to get engaged in an intense manner.” He said the Palestinian Authority must “do the utmost to stop violence,” but he added, “the Israeli government has to begin to get engaged with some political perspective.”
The New York Times said that Mr Bush’s recent criticism of Mr Arafat and his almost complete public embrace of Mr Sharon’s view that the Palestinian leader cannot be trusted caused grumbling among some conference participants.