The Malta Independent 20 May 2024, Monday
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Scientists From Middle East to break peace barriers at Malta meeting

Malta Independent Sunday, 30 October 2005, 00:00 Last update: about 12 years ago

Peace in the Middle East will take another giant step forward in November at meetings between representatives from Israel, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and six other Muslim countries.

While the talks are not between governments, but high level scientists, peace is definitely on the agenda.

The meeting will be held in Malta

Sometime in November, at a date and place that will not be publicized in advance, some 67 chemical scientists, plus six Nobel laureates will meet in Malta to continue collaborative discussions on topics of mutual concern.

The brainchild of Zafra M. Lerman, an Israeli-born chemistry professor and head of the Institute for Science Education and Science Communication at Columbia College Chicago, the meeting is the second major gathering for most members of this elite group of scientists. The first was held in Malta in December, 2003.

Lerman conceived and organised the event, chaired the organising committee and recruited the participants. She believes that scientists, unlike politicians and diplomats, can lead the way to peace and cooperation in the Middle East.

“Scientists care more about scientific freedom and discovery than territorial issues. They need access to information. They need shared resources. Those things come from collaboration,” she says, “not warfare or hostility.”

Since the 2003 conference, participants have been actively engaged in collaborative efforts, including a joint proposal on water purification by Israeli and Palestinian participants that has been funded.

Returning to the conference are representatives of Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. New participants include Bahrain, Qatar and Iraq.

Nobel laureates Aaron Ciechanover, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel; Richard R. Ernst, E.T.H., Switzerland; Roald Hoffmann, Cornell University, USA; Yuan T. Lee, Academia Sinica, Taiwan; Jean-Marie Lehn, Universite Louis Pasteur, France; and F. Sherwood Rowland, University of California, USA will present keynote addresses.

The programme also includes workshops on science education; water and environment; bio- and chemical sensing; medicinal and natural products; nanotechnology; and solar energy.

The idea for the conference originated with Prof. Lerman. It was organised by the Subcommittee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights of the International Activities Committee of the American Chemical Society, which Prof. Lerman chairs. Co-sponsors include the American Chemical Society, the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry, the Royal Society of Chemistry of the United Kingdom, and the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker of Germany.

Dr Lerman was recently awarded the 2005 Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights Award from the New York Academy of Sciences for her “groundbreaking efforts in the Middle East.” This is the same award that was previously given to Andrei Sakharov.

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