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European Press Review: The Peace Process Has Collapsed, But U.S. Should Stay Involved

The endless violence in the Middle East concerned editorialists at Europe's leading papers again Friday, as they bemoaned the collapse of a peace process that seemed intact a week ago.

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The Danish daily, Information, thinks the escalation of violence in the Middle East this week should have the alarm bells ringing in the world’s capitals. The paper warns that extremely dangerous forces are at work in the region which make it all that much more important to find a solution to the conflict. The key is political stability, the paper says. But that can only be achieved with outside involvement. Mutual distrust between Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply entrenched that no one is prepared to take the first step. Others will have to take them by the hand, the paper concludes.

The French daily Le Monde agrees, and calls the situation a vicious circle of violence that only an outside power can break through. The paper is convinced that only Washington can play that role. U.S. President George W. Bush, the paper says, now has the opportunity to prove that he is really serious about resolving the Middle East conflict.

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung fears that all-out war threatens to break out between Israel and the Palestinians. Following the latest suicide bombing, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has given the military a free hand to destroy the radical Islamic organization, Hamas. For its part, Hamas has vowed to conduct more suicide attacks. In sheer disbelief, the paper points out that only a week has passed since the friendly photos of Sharm al Sheikh and Aqaba. The hopeful agreements made there, the paper laments, have unraveled in the brutal reality of the Middle East conflict.

Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments gloomily that it is difficult to believe any so-called peace process would have a chance when Israelis and Palestinians are pressured into accepting formalities of compromise dictated by the United States. And yet that is probably the only hope there is, the paper says.

Austria’s Salzburger Nachrichten is equally pessimistic and sees President Bush’s peace initiative on the verge of collapse before it really began. Only direct and drastic intervention by the United States to impose an immediate ceasefire can keep the latest developments going from bad to worse. But in view of the escalating war of attrition, the prospects for that happening are slim, the paper writes.

Britain’s Financial Times notes critically that the road map to peace in the Middle East is going nowhere. The paper urges President Bush to remain tenaciously engaged, but adds that the real problem with the road map is that its incremental approach gives extremists on both sides a veto.

Italy’s La Repubblica is concerned that the position of the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, is growing weaker by the day. Criticism of his strategy of dialogue with Israel is extremely fierce and totally unacceptable to the militant Palestinian groups, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Already, the paper says with raised eyebrows, Palestinians are circulating the name of a possible successor – to be chosen by Yassir Arafat.

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