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Bernard Kouchner
Photo: Reuters
Avigdor Lieberman
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Miguel Moratinos
Photo: GPO
Spanish FM: Europe has vital role in Middle East
French, Spanish foreign minister brush-off Avigdor Lieberman's suggestion that they focus on solving Europe's problems before meddling in Mideast affairs; say it is the EU's pivotal role that irks him

Backlash: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman may have advised fellow foreign ministers Miguel Moratinos and Bernard Kouchner to resolve European conflicts before meddling in Mideast business, but the two remain undeterred.

 

Spanish FM Moratinos dismissed Lieberman's comments Monday, saying they were prompted by the European countries' vital role in the Middle East peace process.

 

"If we didn’t play an important role, if we were truly devoid influence, our friend Lieberman would not have reacted as he did," Moratinos retorted.

 

"Who saved the national Palestinian leadership? The Europeans. Not only financially, but politically as well."

 

Moratinos and his French counterpart Kouchner, who remain optimistic as to the chances of reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Jerusalem Monday.

 

Kouchner added that while Europe was not as involved in the peace process as the United States, it does have a successful track record when it comes to conflict resolution.

Pivotal. Moratinos (L) and Kouchner (Photo: Reuters)

 

"Yes, Europe has its share of problems, but we are also en example for conflict resolution. Europe is made up of 27 nations, who had been warring for hundreds of years – and have still been able to strike peace.

 

"We leave here optimistic that we, Europe and especially Spain and France, can help propel this process," said Kouchner.

 

The sentiment was echoed by an official European Union statement, saying the body of nations had "a strong interest" in taking an active part in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

 

"We are actively engaged, and we have a strong interest in the current peace process in the Middle East," said EU Foreign Affairs Commission Spokesperson Maja Kocijancik.

 

'We are not world's major issue'

"I did not reprimand anyone. It was a complicated argument between friends," Lieberman said Monday afternoon, at an Yisrael Beiteinu meeting.

 

"Contrary to the reports, we had a tasty dinner and enjoyed a good and honest atmosphere, however complicated. We spoke openly, as is acceptable between friends, and I tried to explain that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is far from being the world's major conflict or the oldest one," he added.

 

He went on to hint at Europe's conflict with Muslims. "Even in Europe they passed the burqa ban and stopped the construction of minarets near mosques and nobody got excited," he said.

 

"I am certainly not suggesting a burqa or minaret ban but you have to know how to tell the truth without blinking. In the Middle East the weak do not survive, only the strong survive here."

 

Rachel Cadares and AFP contributed to this report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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