The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, during the eighth meeting of the European Union for the Mediterranean (UPM), in Barcelona on November 27, 2023. JOSEP LAGO / AFP
“This conference was not against Israel but so that, from Barcelona, there would be a clamor in favor of peace,” affirmed Josep Borrell, at the end of the meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean (UPM) dedicated to the war in Gaza, which was held on Monday, November 27, in the Catalan capital. The head of European diplomacy, who co-chairs this intergovernmental forum founded in 2008 and which brings together forty-two countries including the twenty-seven countries of the European Union (EU), was keen to make this clear.
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Because if the ambition of this meeting was to reflect on an exit from the conflict in the Middle East, the absence of Israel and the content of certain interventions accusing it of carrying out a “genocide” in Gaza and calling for sanctions have sometimes brought back the image of a trial in absentia to the Jewish State.
The meeting mainly served to preserve the bridges between the Arab world and the EU, weakened by the unqualified support for Israel from some of the European leaders, and to insist, as Mr. Borrell did, on the fact that the war between Israel and Hamas “is not a war between Jews and Muslims” nor “a war of civilizations”.
A sign of the importance of the crisis, never before have so many delegations traveled to Spain to attend this annual meeting usually intended to unblock cooperation projects for the countries of the southern Mediterranean. All countries were represented. Twenty-eight foreign ministers, including those of France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Luxembourg, but also of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey or Saudi Arabia had made the trip. And for the first time, Israel was absent. His government canceled his visit after expressing its “discomfort” with the modification “without consultation” of the agenda, devoted entirely to the war in Gaza.
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“The fact that Israel fears unilateral hostility and does not participate in it today shows how deep the divisions are,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “This is precisely why we need to sit down together, talk to each other and hear each other,” she added. “It is important and necessary to dialogue and look at how the countries united can contribute to de-escalation and to restore a political horizon,” underlined the French minister, Catherine Colonna.
The urgency of extending the truce
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