THIS HAS NOT been a good week for American peace-makers.
Richard Holbrooke failed to revive peace talks in Cyprus. Afghan talks brokered by U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson collapsed in Pakistan. And another round of Middle East talks - hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair but chaired by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright - teetered on the brink of breakdown.Holbrooke's Cyprus mission was intended to head off a potentially explosive confrontation between Greeks and Turks over the Mediterranean island. Turkey has threatened military action to prevent the Greek Cypriot government from deploying Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, which it plans to do this summer.
Greece says it will intervene if Turkey takes action, raising fears of a war between the two NATO countries.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash insisted on recognition of his breakaway "state" in northern Cyprus as a condition for resuming U.N.-sponsored peace talks.
Denktash also demanded the European Union withdraw its invitation for the Greek Cypriot government to join an expanded EU.
The Afghan peace talks arranged by Richardson were seen as the best chance to end nearly two decades of war.
The fundamentalist Taliban army has captured 85 percent of Afghanistan, including the capital of Kabul, but has been prevented from taking over the rest of the country by an opposition alliance headed by former military chief Ahmed Shah Massood.
Richardson got the two sides to agree on forming a government of Islamic scholars. But their first face-to-face talks in two years broke down over the Taliban's refusal to open blocked roads that prevent the distribution of relief supplies to starving people.
London talks aimed at reviving the stalled Middle East peace process ended in another stalemate. Palestinians approved an American plan for Israel to cede 13 percent more West Bank land, giving them full or partial control of 40 percent. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu balked, saying he did not have cabinet authority to go beyond 9 percent.
Albright sweetened the pot, telling Netanyahu that if he accepted the U.S. proposal by early next week, Washington was prepared to host final status talks on such sticky issues as Jewish settlements and the future of Jerusalem. But again Netanyahu balked, telling Israeli television: "We do not accept dictates."
Netanyahu maintains that the difference between the American 13 percent and his 9 percent would endanger Israel's security. What he's really worried about, however, is the security of his government. Right-wingers in the Likud-led coalition threaten to pull out and topple him if he gives up more land to the Palestinians.
They don't realize that the longer they stall, the more they undermine Yasser Arafat, , which is driving more Palestinians into the ranks of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
That in itself makes Israel less secure.