KEY ROLE FOR WOMEN IN MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Speaking on behalf of the Council Presidency, Greek Foreign Minister Georgios A. Papandreou promised to back proposals for such a commission. He said that, while ideally it would participate in decision-making, even setting up an advisory body would already be a big step. Like other speakers he acknowledged the need to involve women and civil society more closely in peace talks, saying that problems could not be solved by military means and that satisfactory results depended on popular support. The Greek Presidency would be breathing life into the old idea of a cease-fire during the Olympic Games, the "Olympic Truce", for the Athens games in 2004. Moreover, he promised that the gender issue and women's role in international politics would be addressed at EU foreign minister level.
A Commission representative described ongoing EU peace projects in the region, many based on the involvement of women, and suggested these could help create intercommunal links. Other speakers focused on the adverse effects of the current conflict, such as environmental damage, malnutrition, the refugee situation, violence against women and social and economic consequences. However, one ray of hope was the accounts of Israeli and Palestinian women working side-by-side in the struggle for peace, with some speakers arguing that women could change the culture of violence into one of peace and were therefore crucial to the peace process.
Luisa Morgantini, Chair of the Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, stressed that the international community had to take its share of the responsibility. "We have to choose peace and justice and recognise each other's right to exist", she said. Her view that two states had the right to co-exist was backed by Naomi Chazan, former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, who was the originator of the idea of an International Women's Commission. On the other hand, Aroub Suayter, of "Friends of Alkarara", the Committee of the Palestinian Community in Greece, said she believed in one state with full and equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
Information from: Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities