Friday, February 22, 2002
BRUSSELS, FEB 22: In a remarkable attempt to jumpstart the faltering Middle East peace process, six European countries announced today that they would immediately resolve all of their own disputes with groups that have been fighting for self-determination.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw declared that all British forces will be removed from Ireland “as soon as our Navy can pick them up.”
During a joint press conference with the Foreign Ministers of several other countries, Straw explained, “We have been chastising Israel and the U.S. for demanding that the Palestinian Authority cease their terror attacks before a peace plan be worked out. Then we realized that for years we ourselves have been linking removal of our troops in Ireland to an IRA commitment to decommission its weapons. Suddenly, our path became clear.”
EU Foreign Minister Chris Patten added, "With luck, we can end our occupation of Scotland and Wales by the end of the year as well. We would never ever say, 'do as I say, not as I do.' We hope to inspire the parties in the Middle East by these actions."
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique was next, “Spain hereby announces that it will cede its northern territory to a new, independent Basque state as of July 1, 2002. Last week I called on Israel and the Palestinians ‘to guarantee an immediate cease-fire and return to talks,’ and pointed out that ‘since Israel began making security its top priority, the region has never been so insecure.’ Then it hit me: Here in Spain, we’ve been refusing to talk to the ETA, whom we unfairly branded ‘terrorists,’ and we’ve faced increasing violence ourselves over the past few years.”
Citing Basque regional President Jose Antinio Ardanza, Pique continued, “I now see that Ardanza is exactly right when he says that 'neither policing nor political measures have so far managed to resolve the Basque conflict,' and Spain will follow my own prescription to remedy this problem."
ETA leaders expressed cautious optimism, stating that a good first step toward making good on Pique’s promise would be for Spain to release the 23 leaders of the ETA’s legal political wing, whom Spain's Supreme Court jailed all 23 leaders of the ETA's legal political wing on terrorism charges in December 1997.
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine followed with his announcement that France, too, would cede its southern territory to the fledgeling Basque nation (whose supporters are known as IK), would return its northern territory to the Breton nation, and would also cease to control Corsica as of July 1. “Having accused the U.S. of ignoring the right of Palestinian self-determination, we could no longer turn a blind eye toward our own oppression of those who similarly desire self-determination,” said Vedrine. “One of the many great philosophers from the U.S., Ralph Waldo Emerson, once said that ‘a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’ But in this case he is wrong. For how can we demand that Israel relinquish territory to the Palestinians, even before the Palestinians have stopped their terrorist attacks, unless we are willing to do the same? To do otherwise would show us to be hypocrites.”
Silvio Berlusconi, who is Italy’s Foreign Minister as well as Prime Minister (and who may soon name himself to all remaining ministerial positions), followed with a declaration that by the end of 2002, Italy would relinquish control of Sardinia, Northern Italy, and Sicily, in deference to the independence movements in each of those nations-to-be.
Perhaps most surprising was the joint mea culpa on behalf of their nations from Norwegian and Swedish Foreign Ministers, Jan Petersen and Anna Lindh. “Although few people know about Norway and Sweden’s history of oppression, we can not stand idly by while the indigenous Sami people of our northern provinces remain frustrated in their quest for self-determination. Although we began this colonization nearly 350 years ago, and although the Sami have chosen to express their desires through non-violent protests, we must not interpret the absence of violence as acquiescence. How can we possibly expect to wield moral authority in the Middle East without cleaning up our own backyards?”
In a related development, Canadian columnist Rick Salutin announced that he would donate his house in Toronto, Ontario, to the Mississauga Indians, who are currently pressing land claims in Canadian courts.
"For years, I have written that Israel must be held accountable for all Palestinian aggression, based on the simple fact that Palestinians are displaced from their own land,” wrote Salutin. “Yet it now is clear to me that we Canadians, and I personally, have wronged the First Peoples of Canada in exactly the same way. In fact, we have been far, far, worse. We have appropriated 98% of the territory in Canada, and left the most inhospitable scraps for those we displaced. I, for one, can not continue to preach justice in the Middle East while simultaneously living comfortably at the expense of those whose rights my forebears ignored.”
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan welcomed the announcements by the European nations and Mr. Salutin, and took the opportunity to lay out a vision for a new, tougher U.N. policy on such disputes around the globe. "For too long, we have focused solely on the Israel-Palestinian issue, when similar and frequently worse situations exist throughout the world. As of today, I am committing the U.N. to be uniformly consistent in its application of U.N. efforts and resolutions. Anything else could reduce the U.N. to irrelevance."