Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, stressed that "the peace process must get back to politics". Together with the Spanish Presidency and in anticipation of the next formal General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on February 18, Mr Solana has drafted a working paper which is expected to outline the option of creating a Palestinian state as an necessary "interim stage" in order to permit Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to consolidate his position among his people and secure an end to violence. Mr Solana, who was expected in Istanbul on February 11 and 12 for the Islamic Conference, is likely to sound out opinions on the option, as will Joschka Fischer, Germany's Foreign Minister, who has begun a week-long tour of the Middle East with a symbolic meeting with the President of the Palestinian Authority. He argues that "Arafat cannot be left on the sidelines, there is no legitimacy through exclusion". The EU thus aims to establish the real prospect of a Palestinian state in anticipation of the Arab League Summit in March, in order to support Palestinian peace activists and isolate extremists.Rapid creation of a Palestinian state.In a preparatory document distributed in Caceres, and which is likely to form the basis of the working paper to be debated at the next GAC, the Presidency emphasises that "an approach based solely on security considerations has proved to be inadequate". The EU insists the obligations on the two parties identified at the Laeken European Council in December and reiterated at the last GAC are "simultaneous, and not mutually conditional". In other words, Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot hide behind the failing of their adversaries as justification for failing to respect their own commitments. Moreover, the parties "have to assume that residual terrorism will continue to be a factor". The Presidency's document considers that the Israeli Government must not be "the sole judge of the Palestinians (...). The EU should be ready to express its satisfaction unilaterally" through the creation of an "impartial monitoring unit". Moreover, the EU should build on the work of its informal group of "observers" on the ground, notably by introducing a mechanism to "verify arrests" made by the Palestinian Authority, an issue on which the Council's working party on CFSP is already working. The Council is also expecting a report from the EU's Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah in order to gauge to what extent it might be possible to fund charitable associations currently controlled by Hamas and Hizbollah and whose action contributes significantly to the popularity of the two extremist organisations. Whilst the EU is continuing to urge the implementation of the Mitchell report, it has few illusions regarding its scope: re-establishing the situation that prevailed prior to the outbreak of the second...

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