The drive for reform in Arab countries will run into difficulty without a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement, the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Wednesday.

 

"It has to be in parallel with putting as much energy on the resolution of the peace process, otherwise it would be very difficult to have success," Solana told reporters in Cairo  following talks with Egyptian President Husni Mubarak.

  

"The peace process has to be also at the centre of gravity of whatever initiative is taken in the future," he added.

  

Responding to fears from Arab countries that Washington and other Western capitals want to impose political and economic reform on them, Solana said change must come from within the region, but Europe would support the process.

  

"We would like very much to help the needs, to help the suggestions, to help the ideas that do come from the countries of the region," he added.

  

He said the role of Egypt, the most populated Arab country and the region's diplomatic heavyweight, was "fundamental" in such change.

  

"We know very well reforms are difficult. It is much easier to say than to do it, " he said, recalling EU efforts at reform.

 

Jordan

 

"We know very well reforms are difficult. It is much easier to say than to do it"

Javier Solana,
foreign policy chief, EU

Meanwhile, a senior US envoy arrived in the Jordanian capital Amman on Wednesday for talks with top officials on Washington's initiative to push for economic and political reforms in Arab and Muslim countries.

  

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman was expected to meet Jordanian Prime Minister Faisal al-Fayez and other officials as well as brief senior newspaper editors on the US initiative, officials at the US embassy in Amman said.

  

He flew in from Cairo, where on Tuesday he had talks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher, who is visiting Egypt to attend a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers.

  

"Any reforms that are achieved must come from inside the region and be based on our Arab and Islamic civilisation and our Islamic religion," Moasher told Grossman.

 

Grossman has also been to Morocco and is due to visit Bahrain and Turkey to advance the "Greater Middle East Initiative".

  

Several Arab countries, including US allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have criticised the initiative, fearing Washington wants to impose its own cultural models on the region.