French President Jacques Chirac announced Thursday that his country, in cooperation with Spain and Italy, are drafting a new diplomatic initiative for the Middle East. Chirac said that he held a conference call Thursday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, in order to reach an agreement on an initiative aimed at finding a solution for the Palestinian problem.
The new plan includes five elements: An immediate ceasefire, the formation of a Palestinian unity government that would be able to receive international recognition, prisoner exchange between Israel and the PA (including the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers), talks between the Israeli prime minister and his Palestinian counterpart, and an international force that will deploy in Gaza and reinforce the ceasefire.
Chirac noted that that in the meeting he held Thursday morning with Zapatero, the two decided to take a joint initiative, as they sharedthe same views regarding the crisis in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Zapatero said that the program will be presented before the European Union next month, and expressed hope that it will win the support of Britain and Germany as well.
The EU Parliament on Thursday condemned the "disproportionate force" used by Israel in the lethal attack on Beit Hanoun last week and in the entire Gaza Strip, but also called on the armed Palestinian organizations to stop firing Qassam rockets at Israel, saying they constitute "a blind attack on civilians."
The European Parliament also called on Israel to immediately halt its violations of human rights in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as the economic siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, and instead advance the development in the area in order to benefit both Israelis and Palestinians.
The European Parliament slammed the US veto of the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for the incident in Beit Hanoun. The Parliament called on America to redefine its role as a member of the Quartet to bring a stop to the violence and the beginning of true negotiations between both sides.
The Europeans also called for a continuation of the system utilized to transfer funds to the Palestinian Authority to prevent hospitals from collapsing and support the needy. Transfers were suspended this past March after Hamas came to power. Parliament members noted that the formation of a new Palestinian government could allow a renewal of international aid.