The Euro-Arab liaison office, aimed at facilitating dialogue between the European Commission and the Arab league, has been inaugurated in Floriana by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, the EU's External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner and the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.

The office, which will have an initial injection of €500,000 from EU coffers, will be coordinated by officials from the European Commission, the Arab League and Malta.

Dr Gonzi said the office was bringing the European and Arab worlds closer to one another. The office would be generating activity in specific areas which were not just political but would deal with climate change, sea pollution, water problems, immigration and all aspects impacting on the normal everyday life of citizens.

This was a first but very important step recognising Malta's vocation and the country was committed to make it a success.

Mr Moussa described Malta as the embodiment of Mediterranean society and culture.

He said it was true that there was a clash of civilisations but this was caused by extremists who pointed their guns and acted as terrorists.

"But now we are entering a new era where we show readiness to work together. We have proof that by our performance we show everybody that there is value added work that will be beneficial to both groups of countries," he said.

Ms Ferrero Waldner said the setting up of the office was the realisation of a common political will to work on a common project.

The European Commission had approved 70 milion euros for the setting up of the Union for the Mediterranean project. This office did not hamper this project but worked in tandem with it.

Hoping that the office will provide a new chapter in relations between the European Union and the league of Arab States, Foreign Minister Tonio Borg said that through the office, the European Commission was formalising its relations with the Arab world in a way that is had never done before.

For Malta, Dr Borg said, the office was a natural progression since its vocation had always been a firmly European but nonetheless Mediterranean one.

For years, he said, European perception of the Arab world ignored the potential for cooperation in several different spheres but if the premise of equal partners was accepted, one could look ahead to a future of increased cooperation.

“And equal partners we must be even on issues as difficult as the Middle East. “On this issue Malta has always been categorically clear – we favour a two-state solution where both sides are allowed to live in peace and security.

“Without allowing us to forget the daily tragedy in this area, where a peaceful solution is eluding us, let us not allow it to condition a more creative dialogue that can be achieved between the EU and the Arab world,” he said.

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