Vienna, 17 December 1996/MS/15403/c-is


In a statement issued today, the President of the International Progress Organization, Dr. Hans Koechler, expressed his organization's grave concern about the recent announcement of the formation of a "Rapid Deployment Force" (EUROFOR) by France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. He said that this move of the Southern members states of the European Union (with the notable exception of Greece) seriously threatens the spirit of co-operation and dialogue among the countries of the Northern and Southern coast of the Mediterranean. A strategy based on a construed threat from the Islamic countries of the Southern flank of the Mediterranean only serves the neo-colonialist design of NATO vis-à-vis the Arab and Muslim world.

The President of the I.P.O. warned of the new confrontationist ideology propagated by the Western establishment after the end of the East-West conflict. He referred to the statement of Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington -- repeated last week in Vienna -- about a "clash of civilizations" and the supposed threat to peace emanating from the Muslim world. Dr. Koechler explained that this confrontationist ideology serves the purpose of building a new enemy stereotype for the West after the collapse of the communist bloc. The establishment of EUROFOR must be seen in this context.

The President of the I.P.O. expressed the hope that the member states of the Arab Maghreb Union will revitalize their co-operation for the sake of defining a coherent position on all issues of security in the Mediterranean. He said that, in the absence of efficient security arrangements, the strengthening of such regional organizations in the Southern Mediterranean is of vital importance to peace and stability in the whole region. In this context, the President of the I.P.O. pointed to the grave military imbalances between the NATO member countries of the Northern and the Arab countries of the Southern flank of the Mediterranean. The very real security threat for the Arab countries in Northern Africa results from NATO-missiles stationed in Southern Europe and from the huge nuclear arsenal of Israel which still refuses to sign the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).