I thank the High Representative for his very comprehensive and far reaching remarks. It is always good to see you in New York, President Sampaio, and to benefit from your vision and leadership.
I also wish to thank His Excellency the State Minister of International Cooperation from Qatar for his statement on the Doha Forum. Allow me to congratulate and thank the Authorities of Qatar, and specially Her Highness Sheikha Moza, for their strong commitment to the objectives of the Alliance, for their unrelenting support to its activities and their guidance in this very important event they will be hosting. We are sure that the Doha Forum will constitute a very important moment to advance the Alliance’s global influence through a renewed impetus to its activities.
We specially welcome and support the link proposed between the agenda of the Alliance and the MDGs, as we are commonly pursuing convergent and interdependent goals. This new avenue will help us to shape the next implementation plan and the Alliance’s agenda for the future, and I mean a near future, not a distant one.
It is indeed important to aim at concrete objectives, to know what we want to achieve and when. In this sense, identifying measurable goals in the fields of action covered by the Alliance and establishing timelines, are clearly elements that contribute to the Alliance’s credibility and to further its goals.
Allow me also to thank my colleagues from Turkey and Spain, Ambassador Arpakan and De Laiglesia, for their very useful remarks and for the very unique role their countries have played in launching and supporting the Alliance.
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Allow me now, Sir, to refer now to the Alliance’s Regional Strategy for the Mediterranean, to which the recent developments in the region have given extra urgency, as you elegantly put it. Portugal strongly believes that these developments also constitute an extraordinary opportunity for peace and prosperity in that region.
The extraordinary time of change that we are seeing in much of the Arab World is indeed a huge challenge. But it is also an unique moment for the Alliance to reaffirm its role, based on its principles and objectives. It has opened new avenues, new possibilities for the Alliance to assert its unique role and foster mutual understanding among peoples, cultures and beliefs.
As never before, have there been such conditions for the Alliance to advance its “spirit”, to promote dialogue and a culture of peace and mutual understanding in the Mediterranean region. Building upon the desire of the people in so many countries to strengthen and consolidate democracy, the Alliance can and should play, an important role in easing tensions, reinforcing trust, tolerance and respect for diversity, as well as combating all forms of discrimination. The Alliance has here an obvious role in helping to strengthen participation and national cohesion, to overcome differences and grievances, and in contributing for the establishment of more open societies and the peaceful, cooperative and inclusive partnership that we wish to build in the wider Mediterranean region.
These are not mere words. They meet the concrete aspirations of the peoples in North Africa and the Middle East. They are indispensible ingredients for peace and stability in the region.
The Alliance has the tools: its action under its four pillars, as well as the whole architecture of national plans and regional strategies.
What is needed now is to make the Mediterranean Strategy work, to implement its Action Plan. This strategy gives us the framework on which to build. This demands political will, strategic vision, commitment and engagement from all sides.
In meeting these new challenges, I do not doubt that you, Sir, will carry on affording us the courageous leadership and vision that you have shown since you have been at the helm of the Alliance.
We, in Portugal, have for long been committed to an effective solidarity between all Mediterranean countries between Europe and the Arab World. A solidarity based on peace and security, social and economic development, mutual understanding and respect for religious and cultural differences. Two weeks ago, my Minister sent Baroness Ashton, The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, a written contribution for the much needed in depth reflection that we have been promoting inside the EU on the changes that are taking place in our near neighbourhood to the South and the need of a new approach to our policies concerning North Africa, the Middle East and the wider Arab world.
We have proposed a four thronged approach:
peace and security, with the need to put an urgent, political, end to longstanding conflicts, be it between Israel and Palestine, Israel and Syria or Israel and Lebanon;
secondly, support for peaceful political transformation and orderly transition processes to democracy;
thirdly, ensuring economic and social development through a significant, multi dimensional package offered to the countries of the region, a sort of a new “Marshall Plan”;
finally, what Minister Amado calls reinforcing inter-regional multilateralism, that is, bringing governments and regional organizations, such as the Arab League, the African Union, the Golf Cooperation Council, the European Union, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Union for Maghreb, but also the Organization of Islamic States and the Alliance of Civilizations, to work more closely and in a more structured way in meeting the present and future challenges that the region faces.
The Alliance has, in this comprehensive plan, an increasingly important role to play in promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Thus, it is time for us, friends of the Alliance, to redouble our efforts in support of the Alliances objectives and activities, with concrete participation but also de indispensable funding.
But I do not doubt that we shall all rise to the occasion with a strong spirit of solidarity and a sense of urgency. You may count on us to do our part.
I thank you.