Union for the Mediterranean

While Sunday’s launch summit of the Union for the Mediterranean produced little in the way of real results (see Frida Ghitis’ WPR rundown here), it was notable for producing such a large group of political winners in a region so often characterized by zero sum rivalries. That the summit even came off at all is already a symbolic victory for Nicolas Sarkozy, and the image it gave of an active, dynamic French diplomacy is political gold. Getting all the Arab Mediterranean nations (besides Libya) and Israel to the same table reinforces France’s role as a trusted intermediary, as does the Syria-Lebanon agreement to establish formal diplomatic relations that came from a side-meeting at the summit.

The presence of Bashar Assad represents another step in Syria’s return from regional isolation, and the Lebanon agreement, as well as an in-the-out-door meeting with Turkey’s PM Erdogan following Erdogan’s meeting with Israeli PM Olmert, reinforce the image Damascus is trying to portray of a serious partner for peace.

Olmert left with the highest-level indirect contacts with Syria to date, as well as a side-meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, after which he declared that the prospects for a final status accord had never been better. (The summit’s final declaration, nevertheless, was held up for revision based on a disputed word between the Palestinian and Israeli delegations.)

And Turkish PM Erdogan left with an assurance from Sarkozy that France would do nothing during its EU presidency to impede the opening of chapter negotiations for Turkey’s EU accession process. Erdogan, in turn, seemed to adopt the very Sarkozyian postion of full participation in the UFM as a means of creating the goodwill necessary for advancing Turkey’s EU hopes. It’s the same approach Sarkozy has applied to France’s integration of NATO as a means of furthering EU defense, and illustrates the similarities between the two men’s foreign policy approach.

Not bad for a summit that wasn’t even certain to have a full house as recently as a week ago.

Union for the Mediterranean

Le Monde reports that Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has accepted his invitaiton to the Union for the Mediterranean launch summit, set for next Sunday in Paris. Turkey, too, has apparently agreed to send an as yet undetermined representative, as will Libya, despite Muammar Khaddafi’s opposition to the project. That’s a promising start for a project high on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s agenda, although with all the questions and challenges that remain to be addressed, it might be something of a Pyrrhic victory.

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