I am gravely concerned at the continuing loss of life in the Palestinian territories and Israel and deeply regret the substantial damage done to infrastructure in the Palestinian territories in Israeli retaliatory attacks and raids. This concern has been expressed on numerous occasions by the European Union and its member states. The European Union is engaged in a vigorous and continuous effort with all parties concerned to encourage a resumption of the peace process.
The incoming President of the Council of Ministers, Josep Piqué, visited the region in mid-January and heard the views of all the major actors. He also took the opportunity to outline the position of the European Union. The Belgian and other EU Presidency Foreign Ministers also visited the region on several occasions as have numerous Foreign Ministers from various member states, including Ireland.
In recent months I have met many of the most important regional actors, including the Presidents and Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Israel and the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, to discuss the situation. I have also had the opportunity to discuss the situation with US Secretary of State Powell and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. In October, together with the Taoiseach, I received President Arafat in Dublin. There is also frequent telephone contact between European Ministers and US, Israeli and Arab leaders.
The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Policy, Javier Solana, and the EU Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, Ambassador Miguel Moratinos, are in constant contact with all parties to the conflict and are frequent visitors to the region. The EU also tries to co-ordinate its positions with those of other international actors. Last week Mr. Solana met in Washington with senior members of the US administration to exchange ideas for moving the situation forward. He also met special envoys of the United States, the Russian Federation and the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Future EU policy towards the Middle East will be one of the major topics for discussion at the Informal Meeting of Foreign Ministers this weekend and I expect that a wide-ranging review of possible policy options will take place. On the question of the destruction of infrastructure, the Spanish President of the Council of Ministers has written to the Foreign Minister of Israel expressing our concern at the damage done to facilities provided by the European Union and its member states, urging an end to these acts.
It is clear that progress in the Middle East can only come about through the establishment of mutually reinforcing political and security measures. These measures are set out in the Mitchell Report. The recommendations of Mitchell must be taken in their entirety. There is no room for either side to select those measures which appeal to it and avoid those which carry a cost. To present the current problem as one of security alone is to avoid the real issue. Terrorism is indeed a problem in the Middle East but the Middle East problem is not one of terrorism. I call on both sides to take the political and security measures, which they know are necessary, to rebuild the partnership which alone can lead to a just and comprehensive final settlement.