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Europe

Fischer Translates Bush Speech into Action Plan

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has drawn up a concrete plan to kick-start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The proposals retain elements of President Bush’s controversial Middle East policy speech last month.

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Crucial mediator between the Palestinians and Israelis - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer

Fischer, who has increasingly proven to be a key negotiator in the Middle East process, has drawn up a short paper fleshing out ideas introduced last month by US President George W. Bush.

Fischer presented the four-page paper to Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Kofi Anan, UN Secretary General, William Burns, the US special Middle East envoy, and Igor Ivanov, Russian Foreign Minister on July 9, 2002. The four are members of the "Middle East quartet" set up in April to increase diplomatic pressure on Israelis and Palestinians to end the spiral of violence.

Bush’s vision of independent Palestinian state a step further

Bush last month spelled out his vision of an independent Palestinian state with a final settlement in three years, but warned that it could only materialise once Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority introduced reforms.

Bush set stiff demands on the Palestinians saying they must create democratic institutions, a new constitution and new security arrangements with Israel. Bush also raised international eyebrows by suggesting Arafat was incapable of overseeing those reforms and that the Palestinians elect another leader.

Fischer’s blueprint in principle incorporates Bush’s proposals, but goes a step further by proposing the establishment of a United Nations Security Council-based representative with executive powers to oversee the reforms of Palestinian institutions.

Three steps to peace

The plan also suggests a structured timetable needed to create the political process that could realise the goal of an independent Palestinian state.

The Fischer initiative envisions the political process in three phases. The first would start with the appointment by Arafat of an internationally-recognised caretaker prime minister. The caretaker prime minister, who would tighten security and begin reforms, would stay in office until the start of the year 2003 when elections are held.

The second phase would begin after the elections are held and would last till the end of 2003. It would lead to a provisional Palestinian state, which would negotiate over the next two years with Israel over key issues such as drawing borders.

Negotiations over those issues are expected to be concluded in the third phase by the end of 2005, the date for a final Palestinian state. In the meantime, the international representative will have executive powers to monitor the reforms by way of an international conference and will leave the post once a state is declared.

Fischer’s plan also foresees Israel complying with a three-phase timetable. Israel would have to lift restrictions and curfews on the West Bank and Gaza strip and establish security co-operation with the Palestinians. There would also be a freeze on all new settlement-building and on the seizure of further land in the Palestinian-controlled areas.

Fischer at the forefront of European peace initiatives

Fischer’s proposals will now be debated by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Kofi Anan, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Iwanow, Javier Solana and Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller at a meeting on July 15 in New York.

Fischer’s blueprint, the first of its kind since Bush gave his Mid-East policy speech, underlines the growing high-profile engagement by EU and, more notably, German leaders in the Middle East in recent months.

Under foreign minister Fischer, who enjoys the confidence of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, Germany has served as a mediator in the Middle East.

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