Alliance of civilizations

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to improving relations between Islam and the West, a multinational group of scholars, politicians, and religious leaders said in a report presented here Monday to UN chief Kofi Annan.

Alliance of civilizations

"The Israeli-Palestinian issue has become a key symbol of the rift between Western and Muslim societies and remains one of the gravest threats to international stability," said the report, finalized after a two-day meeting here.

"The international community should seek a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a renewed sense of urgency," it said.

The group of 20 experts - among them former Iranian president Mohamad Khatami and South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu - is part of the UN-backed Alliance of Civilizations initiative, launched last year to foster respect and dialogue between Islamic and Western societies.

The group is co-sponsored by predominantly Catholic Spain and mainly Muslim but strictly secular Turkey.

The report called for an international meeting "as soon as possible" to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process and urged drafting a White Paper analyzing the Israeli-Palestinian landscape "dispassionately and objectively."

After receiving the report, Annan underlined the global ramifications of the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

"We may wish to think of the Arab-Israeli conflict as just one regional conflict among many. But it is not," the UN leader said at a joint news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"As long as the Palestinians live under occupation, exposed to daily frustration and humiliation, and as long as Israelis are blown up in buses and in dance halls, so long will passions everywhere be inflamed," he said.

The report also criticized Western military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for contributing to a "growing climate of fear and animosity" around the world.

"Narrow, distorted interpretations of Islamic teachings" are to blame for the misperception of some traditions as religious requirements, it added.

Annan, who will step down at the end of December after two five-year terms as UN chief, said that he believed that the report would pave the way for an array of international initiatives to promote reconciliation between East and West.

The document proposed measures to promote long-term understanding between cultures, including a critical review of educational material, increased youth exchange programs, and a media campaign against discrimination.

Annan welcomed the recommendations, but said that their success would depend on eliminating mutual distrust.

"All of these are important lessons," he said. "But they will have little impact if the current climate of fear and suspicion continues to be refueled by political events, especially those in which Muslim peoples - Iraqis, Afghans, Chechens, and perhaps most of all, Palestinians - are seen to be the victims of military action by non-Muslim powers."

Erdogan said that Turkey's membership talks with the European Union are the "most meaningful response" to proponents of a clash of civilizations and called for global action to overcome the divide between cultures.

"Globalization, which has brought different geographies and peoples closer than ever, has at the same time spread ancient diseases such as violence all over the world," he said.

"There needs to be a global response to this global threat," he said. "The Alliance of Civilizations is that response."

Zapatero said that a fresh EU initiative for peace in the Middle East, spearheaded by Spain, would be made public next week.

"The situation in Palestine is extremely serious," he said through an interpreter. "We have to react quickly and firmly."

"Some people see the alliance of civilizations as a utopia ... but there are in the real world some examples of peaceful co-existence between peoples and civilizations," he said.

The idea for the Alliance of Civilizations was suggested by Zapatero in a speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2004, six months after terrorist bombings in Madrid killed 191 people.

It proposed to bring together institutions and civic groups to overcome prejudices and misunderstandings between different cultures and religions.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16