Monday, 29 August 2011
"Recognizing Palestine in the UN would damage the peace process"
Jorge Moragas was a young diplomat working for the government's protocol department when José María Aznar, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), took office in 1996. These days, he is chief of staff to the current PP leader, Mariano Rajoy, and the party's foreign relations spokesman. Inside his office at party headquarters on Madrid's Génova street, there is a large board where he notes down the week's schedule.
This summer, for instance, he traveled to London and Warsaw to meet with the chiefs of staff to prime ministers David Cameron and Donald Tusk to explain the kind of foreign policy the PP will do if it wins the upcoming general elections. Or, as Moragas likes to say, "if Spaniards place their trust in us," a reminder that the party's number-one rule is not to assume it will win, not until the voting stations are closed on the night of November 20.
Question. Is Spain's position on the Libyan conflict an example of bipartisan consensus?
Answer. It's a pity, but it's only at the end of nearly eight years of Socialist government that we have been able to do something together and it was precisely on the Libyan issue. It's true that we thought that it would be better to influence the decision now than to try to gain some kind of electoral advantage and later maybe inherit the wrong position on Spain's part.
Q. What would the PP do about Syria if it were in power? Italy has withdrawn its ambassador...
A. That is purely hypothetical, because we're still not in power... I think you need to be very firm, and that the decision to recall an ambassador must be carefully weighed, because without him your ability to defend your interests is greatly hampered. That is the last resort for diplomacy, although the government should have it on the table... And it's true there's been an ongoing error in the way the government gauged the nature of the [Syrian] regime, or Al Assad's psychology. We have seen it praise the reformist spirit of someone who has demonstrated the exact opposite. We are witnessing a historical character change in the Arab world, and Spain has to align with the winners, who can be none other than those who champion freedom, democracy, human rights and a market economy.
Q. Do you think that Spain should support recognition of a Palestinian state in the United Nations?
A. What I think is that our foreign minister [Trinidad Jiménez] is mistaken when she says the issue is ripe for recognition. We do not question that there should be is a Palestinian state, but contrary to the minister, we believe the matter is still very green. And I'll give her three reasons for it: first, the attempt will meet with a US veto in the UN Security Council, and therefore fail. Second, the European Union does not have a common voice on such a transcendental issue, and the minister knows that. There are major countries such as Germany who do not view this favorably. We're heading for a division of the European vote in a multilateral organization that is a world showcase ? this would greatly undermine the spirit of the Treaty of Lisbon, which encourages us to work towards a common foreign policy. Third, being a unilateral decision, it would negatively affect the peace process and the EU's position within the Quartet [EU, US, Russia, UN]. Therefore, I believe I am not wrong to say that the issue is still not ripe, and that we would create greater frustration and instability... The PP does not want Spain to contribute to weakening the peace process and creating tensions with the US over a futile recognition of the Palestinian state.
Q. Zapatero announced that Spain will begin pulling troops out of Afghanistan in the first semester of next year, a move to be completed in 2014. When the withdrawal begins, the PP might be in power. Do you feel bound by that calendar?
A. In general, we feel it is a reasonable calendar and approach, although we reserve the right to review it and introduce variables depending on the elements we obtain from the government, if Spaniards place their trust in us. We have to study this process with the allies. What we will never do is to act on our own or let us get carried away by sudden, childish impulses. No Spanish government must ever again act with a lack of solidarity towards its allies. That undermines a country's credibility and it's very hard to get that back.