Chronicle of a "Dialogue des Sourds"
Via La Repubblica
Update Thursday 27 July
Here's the peril in holding unsuccessful conferences:
08:46 Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon declares that the Rome summit authorizes the Israeli offensive in Lebanon.
Paltry results. Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Alema concluded peace talks on Lebanon by congratulating local police and firemen for keeping Roman traffic away from the conference venue. But not before Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema made a silly, self-serving remark: Of course there should be a ceasefire. But Italy isn't firing at anybody!
In the background, Italy is about to withdraw its contingent from Iraq, so the country has zero credibiity with the Bush Administration and hence, with Israel. In fact, it is likely that Prodi, like Zapatero, now enjoys persona non grata status in Washington. But lack of influence does not preclude putting on an embarrasing dog and pony show and getting Condoleeza to show up for a sound bite and a photo-op. I should have liked to have seen Romano Prodi's L'Unione coalition government come out of the conference smelling like roses, but it has humiliated itself by PR overreach. This is a disaster for L'Unione.
Talk at the conference went much like this as the language transformed during the dead-end dialog that included these participant participants: Premier Romano Prodi, Foreign Massimo D'Alema, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Lebanese PM Fuad Siniora, the foreign ministers of Canada, Jordan, Egypt, Russia, France, Cyprus, Saudia Arabia, UK, Spain, Turkey, Germany and Greece, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Relations Javier Solana, Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, the EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero Waldner and a Vatican observer.
10:37 Prodi optimistic on cessation of hostilities! 10:49 Uh, nevermind, what about a humanitarian corridor?
12:05 Chirac ready to lead international peacekeepers! 12:14 Yeah, but Chirac was counting on Egyptian troops, and Mubarek put the kabosh on that straight away: No Egyptian troops either to defend Lebanon or to disarm Hezbollah.
12:27 NATO peacekeeping force!. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in favor! 17:22: Germany rejects the idea outright!
12:35 Kofi Annan calls for immediate ceasefire! 14:57 Condoleezza Rices announces a downgrade to urgent!
16:22 France throws in the towel on the botched exercise. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy expressed bitterness: There was no agreement despite the fact that it had been agreed that we would work with maximum urgency toward a ceasefire. We would have prefered the word "immediate" rather than "urgent" in the communiqué at the end of the meeting.
16:54 Prodi holds a figleaf: A ceasefire is very, very close!
19:26 Israeli airstrike destroys a convoy of food and medicine dispatched by Saudi Arabia at the Lebanese border with Syria.
22:38 The White House declared the results of the Rome talks as "satisfactory" [i.e., hamstrung] and rejected that the call for an "urgent" rather than "immediate" ceasefire constituted a failure.