Leaders from the European Union and 10 Mediterranean nations began their final summit session on Monday still without agreement on a code of conduct to fight terrorism or a vision statement on Middle East peace. Diplomats said foreign ministers of the 35 countries failed at a late-night session to resolve differences over whether to distinguish between terrorism and a right to resist occupation, and what to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
One EU official said the leaders might only be able to agree on a five-year work programme, already finalised. But EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana voiced optimism that there would be a wider deal, telling reporters: "We all know what we mean by fighting terrorism. In reality, there is total cooperation between the countries north and south of the Mediterranean against terrorism."
The Barcelona summit, which began on Sunday, was meant to be the first time that leaders of a group that includes Israelis and Palestinians as well as the 25 EU countries had met.
Previous meetings of the Euro-Mediterranean group, launched in Barcelona 10 years ago, have been at foreign minister level. Nearly all EU leaders turned up. But political problems at home or ill health kept most Mediterranean leaders, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, away.
That undermined the prestige of a meeting which EU leaders wanted to extend cooperation across the Mediterranean to help combat terrorism and illegal immigration. "Among our most ambitious goals, a just and lasting peace in the region continues to be our first and oldest priority if we wish to transform the Mediterranean into an area of stability that promotes the development, wellbeing and quality of life of our societies," Spain's King Juan Carlos said in an opening address.
He called for reinforced cooperation against new threats to security through "an operational and effective fight against terrorism" and said there was also a need for "an orderly management of migratory flows", reports Reuters. I.L.