On 23-24 May in Tel Aviv and Ramallah, the Socialist International held a meeting of its Council, with the participation of leaders and representatives from its member parties and organisations from around the world. (List of participants)
The Council, which convenes every six months, met on this occasion in the Middle East to underline the International's commitment to the search for peace in the region and to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to move forward along the path of dialogue and negotiation at a crucial juncture for the region's future.
Under the main theme "For a Middle East in peace, with political and economic democracy: the social democratic vision", the Council meeting, hosted by the Israel Labour Party, the Israeli Yachad Party, and the Palestinian Fatah, all members of the International, held two sessions, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Ramallah.
The session in Tel Aviv was opened on the morning of Monday 23 with contributions from Shimon Peres, Leader of the Labour Party and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel; Imad Shakur, Member of the Palestinian National Council; Yossi Beilin, Leader of the Yachad Party from Israel; and SI President António Guterres. A number of leaders from Socialist International member parties participated in the debate on the main theme. (List of speakers, Monday 23 May, morning session)
On the afternoon of the first day, the Council received a report from the Chair of the SI Committee on the Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment, Christoph Zöpel (Germany, SPD), and the position papers 'Financial and Economic Issues, The Bretton Woods Institutions and Global Economic Governance' and 'Trade and Social Rights', prepared by the Committee, were approved, as were the following declarations: 'Socialist International's Second Semi-Annual Review on Democratic Governance for Sustainable Development in a Global Society'; 'Millennium Development Goals', and 'World Summit on the Information Society'. A position paper -'Reforming the United Nations for a New Global Agenda' - prepared by a special Working Group established by the last SI Congress was adopted, following a presentation by Maria João Rodrigues (Portugal, PS). A resolution on the establishment of a global network of parliamentarians from SI member parties, an area of work mandated to the SI Secretary General, was approved.
The President of Israel, Moshe Katsav, delivered a special address to the Council meeting and welcomed the presence of the International, acknowledging a climate of expectation with regard to latest developments in the Middle East.
The afternoon session ended with a report of the Secretary General of the Socialist International, Luis Ayala, detailing the activities and the focus of attention of the organisation during the last six month period.
In the evening, in Ramallah, the delegates to the Council had a special meeting with the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who thanked the International for its continuing involvement in the search for peace in the Middle East.
On Tuesday 24, the session in Ramallah was opened with addresses by Nabil Shaath, Deputy and Acting Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority; Abbas Zaki on behalf of Fatah; Avshalom Vilan, MK, of the Yachad Party; Colette Avital, MK, of the Israel Labour Party; and, SI President António Guterres. Participants continued the discussions of the previous day in Tel Aviv on the main theme. (List of speakers, Tuesday 24 May)
At the end of the debates, a resolution on democracy and peace in the Middle East was introduced by Thorbjørn Jagland (Norway, DNA) on behalf of the SI Middle East Committee which he chairs, and was unanimously adopted.
In other decisions taken, the Council agreed to recommend the upgrade of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, Iraq, and of the Democratic Party, Serbia,of Serbia and Montenegro to full membership in the International, and of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan , PDKI, Iran, and the Assembly of Democratic Forces, RFD, of Mauritania to consultative status. In accordance with the SI's statutes, the Council elected George Papandreou, Leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Pasok, Greece; Mohamed El-Yazghi, First Secretary of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, USFP, Morocco, and Horacio Serpa of the Liberal Party of Colombia as Vice-Presidents of the Socialist International, to occupy positions that had become vacant since the last Congress.