Speaking notes on the "Greater Middle East" (GME)



For five thousand years, the Middle East and

This heritage is central to our most fundamental values, namely freedom and human dignity.

As heirs to a glorious history and brilliant cultures, the peoples of this region naturally aspire to take their rightful place in the process of globalization, and to chart a course toward greater democracy and economic development.

Some countries in the Middle East and North Africa have not waited for us to embark on a process of reform. For years now, forces of change have been at work in search of a balance between the legacy of tradition and the demands of modernity.

The adoption by the Heads of State of the Arab League, on May 23 last in Tunis of a Declaration on the “process of development and modernization” is a moment of great political significance. I want to salute the determination of these leaders who have opted for movement. I also want to salute the vitality of those civil societies that have brought this debate out into the open.

Today the G8 is proposing to the countries of the Middle East and North Africa a “Partnership for Progress and a Common Future.”

As we well know, the G8 and the Arab world have discussed this initiative at length. The result we have arrived at may usefully and powerfully help to advance the reforms set in train by the countries in the region.

The success of this initiative will ultimately depend on our capacity to forge a genuine partnership with the governments and peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, founded in pragmatism, respect, confidence, and dialogue.

1) Pragmatism, in the first place, means acknowledging the obvious, namely that the conflicts ravaging the region are today the paramount obstacles to its development.

We must take the measure of the resentments and frustrations from one end of the Arab world to the other, fueled by the daily spectacle of violence and humiliation in places so laden with history and symbols.

Given this situation, our prime responsibility is to commit ourselves unstintingly in favor of a settlement of these conflicts, and to strive for the triumph of the principles we wish to uphold, namely the primacy of law and respect for human rights.

In the Near East, we have not collectively displayed the requisite determination. For too long we have remained hostage to prerequisites and preconditions. Just consider the havoc wreaked by these four years of Intifada, and the thousands of innocent civilians cut down by blind violence.

We must—because we can—steer the parties back without delay onto the road to political settlement, and halt the escalation of violence. We must accelerate, or even impose, the implementation of the Quartet’s Road Map, with the objective of two States living side by side in peace and security, in compliance with the United Nations resolutions. We must also reflect seriously on an international presence on the ground, as already broached in our communiqué in Genoa in 2001.

Finally, to be lasting, peace in the region must be comprehensive and should include a settlement of the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.

In Iraq, there must be an effective transfer of power under the aegis of the United Nations, so that this country now plunged in chaos may regain its full sovereignty, with a credible, responsible government, endowed with all necessary authority. We should be working to that end in the Security Council.

Unless we all commit ourselves more deeply along the road to settlement, what will become of our collective credibility? Will we have the legitimacy to promote necessary reforms? Will we be able to disarm the distrust of those who suspect us of ulterior motives or of seeking to impose an alien model on this region without regard for its identity and its diversity? Will we be able to dispel the fear of hostility toward the West which is so widespread in the Middle East, and which is so destructive to peaceful coexistence beetween our countries?

We must stand ready to help. But we must also take care not to provoke. For that would be to risk feeding extremism and falling into the fatal trap of the “clash of civilizations”: precisely what we wish to avoid.

2) The partnership which the G8 is offering the countries of the Middle East and North Africa today must not be imposed but freely chosen.

The human rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of 1948, and democracy, are universal values.

But there is no ready-made formula for democracy readily-transposal from one country to another. Democracy is not a method, it is a culture. It is the outcome of history, of deep maturation, of political struggle and debate. For democracy to take root solidly and durably in the Arab world, it must be an Arab democracy before all else.

To call for the establishment of freedom, respect for human rights, and the rule of law in a country means respecting that country’s freedom and independence first of all.

For reform cannot be decreed from the outside. It is a process that comes from within. And imposed values can never be assimilated: they will always retain the taste of humiliation.

Firstly, political reforms, the countries of the Middle East and North Africa do not need missionaries bringing democracy. But they must know that they can count us to stand by them in implementing their chosen reforms. We have effective instruments allowing us to support these processes without interfering.

Next, economic reforms, in order to unleash the spirit of initiative and potential for growth. To roll back poverty. To allow this region, for much of history in the vanguard of science, industry and commerce, to take its rightful place in the process of globalization.

Finally, social reforms, to enable the men and women of this region to give free rein to their talents. To offer young people, who represent more than half of the population, prospects other than unemployment, revolt, and extremism. To put an end to illiteracy, in particular, and, through education, to offer the younger generations access to the treasures of their own cultures and the world’s storehouse of knowledge.

3) We want to build our “common future” on foundations of respect and dialogue.

It is this spirit of mutual respect that has inspired the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership since 1995.

And we must breathe this same spirit into the partnership we are inaugurating today between the G8 and the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

It is not the intention of this new partnership to replace the existing instruments established by Europe or the United States. It must, on the contrary, draw sustenance from its patiently accumulated capital of trust.

The “Forum for the Future” which we are launching today will be the natural framework for this new dialogue. It is up to us to bring it to life; to turn it into a place for listening to each other and exchanging views; to make it a focus of initiative too, where the countries of this region can express their needs and desires, and where the G8 countries and those wishing to join them can coordinate their responses.

The future of the world will greatly depend on events in the Middle East and North Africa :

- the future of peace, given the powers and passions unleashed against stability and security ;

- the future of dialogue between civilizations and future of our common values, both surrounded by fundamentalism and dogmatism.

Those are the issues underlying both our partership and the reforms. Such is our responsability towards history and towards future generations.

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