Sunday 16 July 2006

Britain Must Act to Secure Truce in Middle East

We are in danger of witnessing a rapid descent into a widespread war in the Middle East, involving Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, unless Britain with other peace allies act swiftly as mediators. Already the loss of innocent lives on all sides in this conflict is mounting hour by hour but the scale of suffering will be immense if the war engulfs the whole region as it now threatens to do.

Following his meeting with George Bush, the Prime Minister seems to be simply following the American line of seeking to blame the current escalation of military action on both Iran and Syria.

Whatever the provocation of having soldiers captured, the Israeli response has been commonly acknowledged as totally disproportionate. In addition the lack of early intervention by the US to seek to restrain the Israeli reaction at the outset leads some to fear that the implication of Iran in the current conflict suits the USA's wider political and military agenda for the Middle East.

Britain could play an important role in preventing the further escalation of this conflict and in laying out the terrain for its resolution.

Israel is only influenced in any meaningful way by the US. Britain must now call upon the US administration to make it patently clear that it does not support the present Israeli military action and that consequences for the Israeli/US relationship would follow if Israel persists in its attacks on Lebanon and Palestine.

Britain, along with its European peace allies, should now seek a mediating role via the UN. First, to negotiate a ceasefire and subsequently the handing over of prisoners from both sides.

There is a possibility that we could assist all parties to this conflict to step back from the brink. But we can only succeed in playing this role if Britain is demonstrably seen to be independent of the Bush administration.

Our role on the international stage is diminished by Britain being viewed as a satellite of the Bush administration.

The Ministry for Peace initiative, which I participated in establishing in the UK three years ago, has demonstrated that around the world conflict has been overcome by some very basic techniques of peace making and conflict prevention.

It is time that we established at the heart of the UK government a Ministry for Peace, so that we are organised and resourced to assist in preventing any future conflicts like the one we are presently witnessing in the Middle East.

You can find out more about the Ministry for Peace at the website.