The first summit of the Mediterranean Union has ended, with French pleas to Middle Eastern countries to stop a spiral of war and violence in their region.
But there are obvious challenges ahead. The leaders of Syria and Israel may have shared a table for the first time, but they didn’t shake hands and President Bashar al-Assad appeared to avoid Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
But when a journalist noted that Assad had walked out of a speech by Olmert, French President Nicholas Sarkozy was quick to play it down:
“There was no diplomatic incident or anything of that kind,” he said. “Frankly I don’t know who said that but they must have had some sort of hidden motive.”
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarrak leant his support:
“Maybe President al-Assad had another meeting and left,” he said. “Mahmoud Abbas wasn’t present during the speech either. You can’t read into that that he didn’t want to be there.”
There were complaints too from the Palestinian Authority, demanding the removal of a paragraph in the final communique referring to their conflict with Israel.
The disputed paragraph also made no reference to a two-state solution to that conflict.