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Israel dismissed reports Thursday that Spain, France and Italy are preparing a new Middle East peace initiative, saying that at the most, they were discussing "some Spanish ideas."
"We cannot remain impassive in the face of the horror that continues to unfold before our eyes," Zapatero said.
Zapatero said the plan had five elements: an immediate cease-fire; formation by the Palestinians of a national unity government that could gain international recognition; an exchange of prisoners - including the three IDF soldiers whose kidnapping sparked the war in Lebanon and fighting in Gaza this summer; talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas; and an international mission in Gaza to monitor a cease-fire.
Eventually, a major international conference on Middle East peace should be held, he added, without saying if such a meeting should take place in Spain.
Middle East peace, Zapatero said, "is one of the factors that can contribute most to cornering fanaticism and terrorism."
But Israeli officials were unimpressed. "At the most what is being discussed are some Spanish ideas," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
European states offer Middle East peace plan without UK
In a sign of growing frustration at diplomatic inaction as Israeli-Palestinian violence escalates, Spain, France and Italy yesterday unveiled a five-point peace initiative, taking Britain by surprise.
Downing Street confirmed last night that it had not been consulted and had no prior knowledge of the plan, which envisages a leading role for Europe in ending the conflict. Foreign Office sources said they had first learned of it from a news item on the BBC.
One particular cause of frustration has been the American veto, last Saturday, of a security council resolution condemning Israel in the wake of an artillery attack in Gaza which killed 18 Palestinian civilians. France, a permanent member of the council, voted in favour, describing its text as "balanced", but Britain abstained.