Talks aimed at adopting a water strategy for the Mediterranean failed Tuesday due to a disagreement between Israel and Arab countries over a reference to the Palestinian territories, participants said.
"Unfortunately we cannot reach an agreement," French Secretary of State for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche said at the end of the 4th Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Water in Barcelona.
The conference aimed to reach an agreement on a strategy for managing water in the Mediterranean to ensure equal access to the resource in the volatile region and prevent the issue from becoming a source of conflict in the future.
But a reference to "occupied territories" in a proposed draft text prevented the approval of an agreement at the gathering of member states from the Mediterranean Union at its headquarters in Barcelona.
Israel disagreed with this wording while Arab nations opposed to the alternative formulation of "territories under occupation" proposed by European participants, said Lellouche.
The Mediterranean Union groups all 27 EU member states with countries in North Africa, the Balkans, the Arab world as well as Israel in a bid to foster cooperation in the region.
It was established in 2008 in Paris by France and Egypt but was temporarily mothballed in early 2009 because of tensions caused by Israel's offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The head of the body, Jordan's Ahmad Masa'deh, said he was saddened by the failure to reach an agreement at the conference because it "casts doubt on the future of the Mediterranean Union."
For his part Lellouche said the Mediterranean Union was a "fundamental project for peace in this region and it has not lost any validity because the challenges before us are enormous."
"My disappointment is matched only by my hope, this structure is irreversible. The delegations did not agree on everything, but they were in agreement on 99 percent of the technical issues related to water management."