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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 06:47 GMT 07:47 UK
Patten: Sharon's policies caused 'cult of death'
The European Union's external affairs commissioner has hit out at Ariel Sharon, accusing him of provoking an "insane cycle" in the Middle East.

Chris Patten also claimed the Israeli defence forces were "trampling over the Geneva convention"

In an interview with the BBC's Hardtalk programme, he said it was inevitable that Sharon would have to pursue a negotiated settlement to end bloodshed in the region.

He warned: "Until the Israeli politicians and leaders sign up once again to the principles behind the Oslo Agreement, until they sign up to a real Palestinian state, until they recognise the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians...there will continue to be violence."

Mr Patten questioned Israel's response to the "appalling acts of terrorism and suicide bombings" by the Palestinians.

Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon declares Israel is at war
Measures taken by Ariel Sharon, he claimed, referring back to Lebanon in the early 80s, "are bound to increase the sense of grievance and bitterness and resentment in Palestinian territories and has led to what the leader of (the Israeli parliament) the Knesset called an 'insane cycle' and the entrenchment of this 'cult of death'."

Mr Patten denied the international community was against Israel, but insisted that Mr Sharon had to recognise "the good sense of what we are saying to him."

He added this was "the only way to ensure a secure world" for the Israelis.

Mr Patten did not see this as rewarding terrorism, as, he claimed, you could only defeat terrorism, if you combined political and security measures.

A "lack of political will", and the fact that Yasser Arafat "was not always easy to help" had led to the lack of a strong common voice condemning Israel's actions, he said.

But Patten dismissed the idea that Yasser Arafat could be discounted by America and Israel, as, he pointed out, they were not able to choose the leader of the Palestinian territories, suggesting that if he were replaced, it might be by someone more extreme.

Furthermore, he warned, the only alternative to the Palestinian Authority was anarchy, which would not be in the interests of Israeli security.

Patten condemned Palestinian suicide bombings, and criticised Arab leaders for not doing the same at the recent Arab League summit in Beirut.

"But", he went on "you do have to recognise, what is the political context in which young men and women strap bombs to themselves and go out to murder other young men and women."

Failure

Israeli rescue worker with body
A suicide bomb attack near Haifa
Mr Patten agreed that the West had failed to deal effectively with the Middle East:

"It is not as if it was not predicted... the fact that things would get worse, that there would be more bloodshed, more lives lost, everything was predictable ... in this depressing slide downhill."

He bemoaned the failure of the Saudi peace initiative, endorsed by Arab League leaders.

This was the first real chance to move things forward, said Patten, in spite of the fact that it was suggested by people who did not have the power to deliver peace:

"Because it was the first time the whole Arab world had lined up, not only to recognise Israel, but being prepared to live in peace with Israel...that had not been said before."

The plan, which would have meant the Israelis accepting the 1967 borders and a viable Palestinian state, was rejected by Israel, but also by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Iraq

Mr Patten feared unilateral action on the part of the US in situations such as Iraq and believes a multilateral, negotiated way forward would work much better,

Although he agreed with George Bush that Saddam Hussein should not remain in power, he would prefer it to be done by the Iraqis themselves - discussions of any military action against the regime should wait until the issues surrounding weapons inspections have been agreed, he said.

He claimed the EU was agreed on a "common, not single" policy of making Iraq meet the nine Security Council resolutions and allow the weapons inspectors back in, through the use of international rules and conventions.

See also:

10 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israeli pull-out on hold after bombing
10 Apr 02 | Middle East
Top leaders press Israel
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