Press Conference by Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean
Members of the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) — a three-year-old organization seeking an observer status with the United Nations — updated correspondents on the organization’s work and spoke about their meetings with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and senior United Nations officials, at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.
Rudy Salles, President of the Assembly said the organization had been founded in 2006 following 15 years of cooperation among the States of the Mediterranean region. Today, it united 125 parliamentarians from 25 Mediterranean countries, seeking to build on the common heritage of their people, find solutions to today’s challenges and work towards a peaceful and prosperous future for all.
Mr. Salles was accompanied by several other members of the Bureau Mission to the United Nations and Washington, D.C., including Suleiman Ghneimat (Jordan), President of the Second Standing Committee on Economic, Social and Environmental Cooperation; and Vice-Presidents of PAM Mohamed Abou El Enein (Egypt), Abdelkader Fedala (Algeria), and Francesco Amoruso (Italy).
Stressing the common concerns of the Assembly and the United Nations, Mr Salles mentioned peace and security, the environment, energy and global warming among the issues that the Assembly was actively addressing. Parliamentary diplomacy was in a position to support the work and mission of the United Nations.
He recalled that last year, Mr. Ban had addressed the Assembly’s third plenary session in Monaco, saying: “The collaboration between parliamentarians and the United Nations has brought valuable returns over the years. Parliamentarians have helped to strengthen political awareness and support on many issues of common concern”. That position had been confirmed during the Assembly’s meetings with the Secretary-General and senior United Nations officials this morning.
Among important events on the high-priority issues planned by the Assembly, speakers at the press conference mentioned a parliamentary regional cooperation meeting on risk reduction in climate change, which would take place in Malta in November. That event could increase awareness of the impact and dangers of climate change and bolster the role of parliamentarians in promoting coherence of national legislations in Member countries. Increased cooperation was needed to come up with a joint solution, they added.
Also planned was a meeting on the question of Jerusalem, to take place in Malta in February. Among other things, speakers said their organization was also addressing the issues of terrorism, energy, crisis management and migration, and was actively involved in Cyprus, the Balkans and Western Sahara.
The absence of peace in the Middle East was one of the main problems that continued to jeopardize stability and development in the Mediterranean, Mr. Salles said. The Assembly was ideally placed to organize discussions between parliamentary representatives, civil society actors, the private sector and politicians, including those from Arab countries, Israel and Palestine. The Assembly sought to create a platform for dialogue and mutual understanding, he added.
The participants at the press conference also recalled their fact-finding mission to the Middle East last May, when the Bureau had visited Cairo, Gaza, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Amman. The visit and the Bureau’s meetings with high-level United Nations officials on the ground had been extremely useful for the parliamentarians, allowing them to take stock of the real situation and understand how the situation was evolving. Mr. Salles said that while he had returned with strong images of the suffering of the people in Gaza, he had also witnessed the strong potential of Palestine.
Responding to several questions about the Parliamentary Assembly’s role in the Middle East peace process, Mr. Salles stressed the role of parliamentarians as elected representatives of their peoples in creating “a climate of trust”. When representatives of Arab and European countries, of Israel and Palestine gathered at the same table, dialogue could be advanced, despite initial difficulties and tensions. Members of Parliament respected each other and were prepared to work together.
The Conference on Jerusalem in February would not seek to propose a solution, but to discuss one of the main stumbling blocks in the Middle East, he continued. Participants in that event would pool their ideas and consider the best way forward. The format of the meeting would aim to promote open and broad-based dialogue among the participants, including representatives of the United Nations and any other interested parties. He added that his organization advocated a grass-roots, bottom-up approach to unlocking the stalemate.
To some additional questions, Mr. El Enein said that the Conference on Jerusalem was being held following the request from Arab countries, because Jerusalem was an international issue. Nobody could say questions on the status of that city were “out of the discussion”, or deny the rights of the Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians there.
He said the Middle East peace process also involved the main issues of refugees, water, security, Jerusalem and Palestinian Territory, and during their meetings with senior United Nations officials and the Secretary-General this morning, the parliamentarians had insisted that the negotiations needed to resume from the point where the talks had broken off. There was an Arab initiative, there was the Road Map, there was Annapolis, and the process needed to start from there –- not from “square one”.
Mr. Ghneimat added that the Assembly’s goal was to normalize relations between the parliaments from the North and South, from Israel and other countries. Members of the Assembly represented some 500 million people from the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, who had many problems in common.