"The time has come for a new effort aimed at solving the problems that lie at the heart of the Middle East crisis," ministers from countries bordering the Mediterranean said in a document tiled the "Declaration of Alicante."
"The Middle East is facing its worst crisis in years following the war in Lebanon and ongoing violence in the occupied territories," the ministers said. "The existing international peace plans and initiatives on the Middle East have reached a state of stagnation, with far-reaching consequences in a wider region fueling new challenges to global peace and security."
The meeting, presided over by Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, brought together counterparts from Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal and Turkey. Algeria, France and Tunisia sent state secretaries. Libya attended as special guest.
Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are represented in the so-called Foromed group, which was founded in 1994.
The declaration added the Israeli-Palestinian Road Map needed "urgent attention" and that "it was obvious for such a process to succeed it should include all the parties to the conflict, namely Israel, the Palestinian National Authority, Syria and Lebanon."
'Many of these proposals become reality'Citing a list of requirements for successful peace building, the declaration called for "the convening of an international conference, aimed at demonstrating political commitment to the renewed multilateral peace process as well as the active support from neighboring countries, regional organizations and third parties."
Speaking at a news conference, Moratinos described the declaration as "Strong, committed and with ideas."
"I can say with absolute conviction that you will see many of these proposals become reality. It is not just another proposal from a regional diplomatic meeting but rather something that will have an impact," he added.
The document proposed short-term steps such as the release of soldiers and prisoners and "the transfer of tax revenues." It also called for a "cooperative border management system that ensures a proper balance between legitimate security requirements and the need for movement and access."
Moratinos said other key short-term steps would be support for the constitution of a Palestine government with which the international community can cooperate and the establishment of economic aid for the Palestine territories.
The gathering comes after Moratinos said Tuesday he felt the Road Map for peace no longer provided answers to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
'We can't ignore our responsibilities'Israeli and Palestinian officials responded, saying Moratinos was overly pessimistic and expressed continuing faith in the Road Map.
Moratinos reiterated his position Saturday, pointing out that the Alicante declaration urged a revision, not a scrapping of the plan. He said he personally helped draw up the Road Map And shared the initial hope but added that it had a "calendar which concluded in 2005 and we're at the end of 2006."
"If we can reactivate and revise it we'll all be satisfied but, to be sincere, I don't feel it will be sufficient," said the Spanish minister.
Regarding a new international conference, Moratinos said he was convinced it would happen "sooner or later" but said it was too early to say when or where such a meeting would be held.
Moratinos said the document would be sent to United Nations, European Union, the United States, and Russia.
He said the fact that the group did not include any of the conflict parties as member nations did not diminish its weight and influence.
Described as a group of "Like-minded" Countries, Foromed was created through an initiative by Egypt and France in 1994 to boost political, economic and cultural cooperation in the Mediterranean region long hindered by the Middle East conflict.
Greece takes over the presidency of the group for 2007.