Arab countries to agree on Mediterranean union co-chair

Consultations are ongoing between Arab countries to choose a country to hold the co-presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean, an official from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said.

On Saturday, the Arab League decided that an Arab country would head the union.

Ashraf Mohamed Hamdy, deputy assistant foreign minister for European Union and Western Europe affairs, and coordinator for the union, said Egypt gave up the presidency after both France and Egypt co-presided over it for three years, exceeding the legal term of two years.

In statements to the press on Wednesday, Hamdy added that European External Action Service has assumed the presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean since the beginning of March.

Asked about how the Union for the Mediterranean could help countries of the Arab Spring, Hamdy said the union is fixing the priorities agreed on in Paris summit in 2008 to take into consideration the developments brought about by the Arab Spring.

This includes helping small- and medium-scale projects, he said.  

Asked about the membership of Israel, Hamdy said Israel had been a member state since the beginning and that there had been no problem.

The primary purpose of the union is regional economic cooperation, and politics only constitutes a small part of the discussions of member states, he said.

The Union for the Mediterranean, launched in 2008 upon the initiative of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, includes countries overlooking the Mediterranean.

The union seeks to circumvent political problems in the Mediterranean region, particularly in the Middle East, through cooperation projects in the fields of environment, water and energy.

However, the lack of progress toward peace, largely blamed on Israel, has had a negative impact on the union.

The first and only summit of the Union for the Mediterranean was held in France in 2008. The second summit was postponed many times during the last two years.

Translated from MENA

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