Representatives of the World Council of Churches Commission of the Churches in International Affairs (WCC/CCIA) and French church leaders met with Colin de Verdihres, secretary general of the French
Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and Reni Roudaut, counselor for religious affairs in the French foreign ministry, in a plenary discussion over the recently implemented road map to peace, June 5.
"While we welcome the initiative to bring Israelis and Palestinians together again to negotiate peacefully a two-state solution, the 'road map' now officially launched fails to incorporate critical issues and internationally recognized human rights and humanitarian law," stated Salpy Eskidjian, World
Council of Churches' international affairs staff.
The representatives gathered at the French foreign ministry shared Eskidjians view, calling for increased European involvement in the negotiations.
"We expect a strong involvement of France and the European Union" because some of the core issues "have international implications and should not just be left to the two parties directly concerned," said Peter Weiderud, WCC/CCIA director.
Weiderud gave the example of Jerusalem, calling it a holy place for three world religions and center for Israelis and Palestinians. Any agreements reached on the return of refugees and on settlements, said Weiderud, would have implications in other refugee situations and cases of occupation.
Eskidjian noted that the status of Jerusalem, all settlements, and borders, and a just resolution of the refugee issues are left to later stages of the proposed process. Other key issues, she pointed, are not mentioned in the "road map" at all, including the separation fence being built in the West Bank. In addition, the clear establishment of monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, and the incorporation of human rights standards under humanitarian law, need to be addressed.
The discussions also covered concerns in the aftermath of the Iraq war. Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the French Protestant Federation, noted the need for the churches to continue their strong engagement with governments and others in civil society to strengthen their respective roles in a multi-polar world.
De Verdihres encouraged the churches, as part of civil society, to engage politicians in such debates, as no sector has the monopoly on knowledge or wisdom. In particular, he encouraged debate in civil society as well as at the government level, on how to manage crises similar to the one in Iraq.
By Pauline J.