IPU moves ahead in Middle East and International Trade
|From left to right: Mrs. O.A. Starrfelt (Norway), Mr. A. Philippou (Cyprus), Mr. A. Burg (President of the Knesset), Mr. Y. Tavernier (France, President of the Committee) and Mr. R. Ahaouandjinou (Benin).|
The Inter-Parliamentary Union has just organised two events which demonstrate how important a role parliaments can play on the international political scene. The mission by the Committee on Middle East Questions to Jordan, Israel and the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority, together with the first parliamentary meeting on international trade, convened in Geneva, underscore parliamentarians' commitment to the issues which are a source of concern today for the world's citizens: the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and the impact of economic globalisation.
In visiting Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Gaza, Ramallah and Bethlehem, the IPU's Middle East Committee, chaired by French MP Yves Tavernier, achieved a twofold goal: establishing frank and constructive contacts with the representatives of almost all political currents in Israeli and Palestinian society, and - more important - proving that parliamentary diplomacy can be effective when the inter-governmental dialogue is deadlocked.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres stressed that the IPU mission was "the most important channel" at a time when the situation between Israelis and Palestinians has once again reached boiling point. Receiving the members of the IPU mission when the peace process is completely deadlocked, the Presiding Officers of the Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Avraham Burg and Ahmed Qurie "Abu Ala", immediately agreed to the proposal by the President of the IPU Committee to meet as soon as possible under the auspices of the world organisation of parliaments to resume the political dialogue.
It is noteworthy that the IPU mission was received and backed by the main Israeli and Palestinian political leaders, including Shimon Peres, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, Dan Meridor (Head of the Knesset Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs), Joshua Matza and Zev Boïm (Likud), Yossi Sarid (leader of the Israeli opposition), Naomi Chazan (Deputy Speaker of the Knesset), Avshalom Abu Vilain (Meretz), Meir Sheetrit (Minister of Justice), Hashem Mahameed (Israeli Arab MP) and the Palestinian MPs Ziad Abu Amr and Salah Tamari, not to mention the presiding officers of the two Jordanian Chambers, Abdulhadi Majali and Zaid Al Rifai, and the President of the Palestine National Council, Saleem Al Zahnoun, whom the mission met in Amman.
The IPU again made its mark when, for the first time, it brought together international trade specialists at a parliamentary meeting where 182 MPs from 71 countries had a chance to enter into a dialogue with WTO Director-General Mike Moore. The former New Zealand MP emphasised that the IPU meeting gave MPs "an important opportunity to build a bridge between institutions like the WTO, to which you belong and fund, and the people". The same people will no doubt appreciate Mike Moore's remark stating that : "parliamentary committees should aggressively scrutinize the WTO and other international organisations".
By moving ahead in the Middle East and in the field of international trade, the IPU has espoused the ambition expressed by the President of the National Assembly of Burkina Faso, Mélégué Traoré, namely that Parliaments become more involved in foreign policy, a field usually reserved for governments, and in the technical spheres of economic globalisation, which until now has been the exclusive domain of economists and financial specialists. This twofold commitment represents an ambitious challenge that the world's oldest multilateral organisation is duty-bound to meet.