Macron peace forum adds to ‘excessive lecture,’ critics say – POLITICO

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has a dizzying to-do list this week: solving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, stopping the melting of ice caps and tackling the challenges of artificial intelligence.

And that’s just a glimpse of the agenda for this week’s diplomatic marathon in Paris that brings together leaders, diplomats and NGO workers from around the world.

But exactly what Macron can achieve is far from certain.

Delegates gather for the Paris Peace Forum, an annual assembly and one of Macron’s many pet diplomatic projects; its ambitions include tackling global challenges ranging from migration to climate change.

Resolving the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is the latest addition to the meeting’s agenda.

On Thursday, heads of state and foreign ministers will discuss “concrete ways” to improve access to humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and meet the population’s needs for water, food, medicine and fuel, according to one of Macron’s collaborators. But with barely a week to prepare for the summit, and access to the Palestinian enclave still dependent on Israel, skepticism reigns over what can be achieved in Paris, according to several foreign diplomats.

It also seems difficult to make progress on the other topics under discussion. France’s efforts to get a global green transition tax off the ground have stalled, while Russia’s absence is the elephant in the room in negotiations to save Arctic ice.

“There is a glut of international conferences with similar participants. “A lot depends on France’s visibility on the world stage,” said a European diplomat who, like others cited in this article, was granted anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.

Macron is not the only leader contributing to this global summit logjam: this month, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosted a summit on AI, while Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez proposed host a peace conference between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Deliver aid to Gaza

As aid organizations warn of food shortages and hospitals run out of anesthetics in the Gaza Strip, pressure is mounting on Western countries to respond to the humanitarian crisis there. On Tuesday, Gaza’s health ministry, controlled by Hamas, said more than 10,000 Palestinians had been killed in Israeli military operations.

Macron’s conference in Gaza will be an opportunity for Western countries to send the message that they care about the Palestinians.

“I see that France’s interest, it is very timely, is focused on Gaza at a time when everyone wants to restore the balance of attention,” declared the same European diplomat, referring to accusations that The West overlooks the loss of Palestinian lives while supporting Israel’s right to retaliate against Hamas attacks.

“But given the late organization, the lack of information… wouldn’t it have been better to hold the conference a week later so that people were better prepared?” » asked the diplomat. Another Paris-based foreign diplomat added that he had “mixed feelings” ahead of the conference. “France has this ambition to greatness but then he must face the reality” that the United States “has the lead” in the Middle East, the diplomat said.

Macron’s Gaza conference illustrates the broader difficulties Europe faces when trying to resolve a conflict over which it has little influence.

The Paris rally is partly a response to the UN’s call for more funds for Gaza, which needs an estimated $1.2 billion. However, it was not presented as a pledging conference and only a few countries, including France, will make announcements on new aid programs.

The conference will also examine “concrete means” of delivering aid, but on this point, Elysée officials downplayed the prospect of a rapid result. “It is no secret that access to Gaza for medicine and aid is difficult, our goal will be to work together with the participants and with Israel and improve this access,” said a senior official. the French presidency.

Except Israel wasn’t invited and isn’t particularly happy about the conference in the first place.

“Like many, we don’t understand what’s going to happen there. We just hope that this does not turn into some kind of anti-Israel platform to criticize Israel and call for a ceasefire,” Israel’s envoy to the EU, Haim, told POLITICO Regev.

According to Michel Duclos, former French ambassador to Syria, inviting Israel would have fueled tensions with neighboring countries. “If Israel had been invited, Arab countries would have been forced to protest, criticize and perhaps not come. So it’s a way to defuse the problem,” Duclos said.

World leaders at the gathering include Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Talk about peace

Gaza is not the only topic of discussion at the Paris Peace Forum, where delegates will also discuss harnessing artificial intelligence, climate finance and saving the world’s melting ice caps and glaciers. planet.

But here too, tangible results are unlikely. On the melting of glaciers and ice caps, participants will agree on a “Paris call” which will send a political message, with some concrete measures.

This year, the forum took on an additional task: following up on initiatives launched by Macron at his June summit on a new global financing pact.

HAS this summit, Macron propose introduce new forms of international taxation to finance the green transition, a priority shared by the 38 other countries which sign a “Paris Pact”. But the main progress made on this file has been the creation of a dedicated working group which will be launched publicly at Friday’s forum.

At stake is perhaps the very purpose of the Paris Peace Forum, a brainchild of Macron in 2017 that focuses on global problems rather than conflicts. However, the world now faces real wars, including Russia’s war in Ukraine as well as conflicts in the Caucasus and the Middle East.

“Today, this line is more difficult to hold. Global issues have been upended by geopolitical crises, it is difficult to separate the two… the challenge is to take the crises into account and not get overwhelmed by them,” Duclos said. The forum, he added, provides valuable space for delegations from rival countries such as the United States and China to meet in an informal setting.

Giorgio Leali, Jacopo Barigazzi and Gregorio Sorgi contributed reporting.


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