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EU leaders disappointed at collapsed peace talks

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October 14, 2000 


BIARRITZ, OCT 13 (AP) - The leaders of the 15 European Union nations, "cruelly disappointed" at the sudden collapse of Mideast peace talks, called on Israel and the Palestinians Friday to resume dialogue at a new summit.

On the opening day of their two-day summit in this Atlantic resort, the EU leaders also considered a 200-million-euro (dlrs 175-million) package of emergency aid for Yugoslavia, whose new president was expected for lunch here Saturday.

"Time is running out," the leaders said in their declaration on the Middle East. "We call on the parties to participate in a constructive spirit in a summit meeting in order to secure the urgent resumption of the dialogue."

It said all parties "must demonstrate political courage and responsibility" so that reason prevails over fear and hatred.

President Jacques Chirac of France, which currently holds the EU presidency, said the EU would be happy to join the talks too.

"If they ask us to take part, we will be there."

Shimon Peres, Israel's minister for regional cooperation, met with some of the European leaders, who called on his government to return to negotiations and end two weeks of violence which has left nearly 100 people dead.

Officials said a possible summit involving the Palestinians, Israelis, the United States, Egypt and perhaps an EU representative was being negotiated and could happen as soon as Saturday.

"Tomorrow night can be a new beginning," Peres said after meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose-Maria Aznar, referring to the possible Mideast summit.

"We should not permit the situation to deteriorate. I think both the Israelis and the Palestinians are very attentive to the European voice and advice and I do hope this conference will provide an opportunity," Peres said.

Chirac said EU leaders were "traumatized by the Middle East affair."

"And we are all the more traumatized because we had the feeling 15 days ago that a peace deal was almost within reach ... We have been cruelly disappointed."

He said the EU "will do everything, and I mean everything, and beyond what is possible, with our understanding of the issue, with our experience, with our goodwill, but also with our hearts, all that can be done to facilitate the end of violence, the restarting of dialogue and the return to a table that could bring us back to a peace deal."

On the other hand, Vojislav Kostunica, the new president of Yugoslavia, is awaited eagerly by the summit leaders Saturday.

Nicole Fontaine, president of the European Parliament, told reporters that a plan for 200 million euros in aid is on the table and after a meeting on the issue none of the government leaders raised fundamental objections.

Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, said the money would be to help the Serbs prepare for the coming winter, and would provide for food, medicine and fuel.

It was not clear whether the new money would be approved here. Some of the leaders were reported to prefer waiting until the EU-Balkan summit, scheduled for Nov. 24 in Zagreb, Croatia.

This week, the EU lifted economic sanctions against Belgrade and began putting together a major package of aid. It is expected the leaders will revise financial sanctions against Yugoslavia and retarget them against companies controlled by ousted President Slobodan Milosevic and his cronies.

Ms. Fontaine said Yugoslavia "can once again take its place as a full member of the European family," but voiced what few leaders have been saying aloud lately - that Milosevic must eventually be tried.

"It will still be essential to bring to book, sooner or later, Mr. Milosevic and those who helped him," she said.

The official summit schedule called for in-depth discussions of EU reform to prepare the 15-nation bloc for enlargement by as many as a dozen new members over the next decade, and a new charter of fundamental rights for European citizens.


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