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27 September 2008 – Indirect talks under way with Israel could pave the way towards peace, Syria’s Foreign Affairs Minister said at the General Assembly’s annual high-level segment today, but he cautioned that their outcome hinges on several factors.
Walid Al-Moualem echoed President Bashar Al-Assad’s hope that the current negotiations, under Turkish auspices, will ultimately lead to direct talks backed by international parties.
“This, however, requires a genuine Israeli will capable of accommodating the exigencies of peace-making,” the Minister told the General Debate.
“It also requires the will to include the peace in the Middle East on the American list of priorities after years of deliberately ignoring and failing to acknowledge it in such a way that has exacerbated the situation in the region.”
Mr. Al-Moualem said his country plays an “essential part” in finding solutions to problems in the Middle East due to its location and “aspirations of its people.”
The recent summit convened by Mr. Al-Assad in Damascus – attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – shows that these nations have a stake in the region’s stability, the Minister said.
The four leaders “recognized that stasis, the suffering resulting from the Israeli occupation of Arab territories that has continued since 1967 and the disregard for the Palestinian people’s rights throw the region in a state of despair,” he added.
By calling for this summit, Syria “stressed that the just and comprehensive peace is its strategic choice and that it is striving to attain it in cooperation with regional and international partners who share Syria’s vision,” Mr. Al-Moualem noted.
Peace can only be achieved with the participation of all those with a stake in the issue, or those who can influence “the outcomes to evince the necessary political will,” he told the Assembly.
Also addressing the Assembly today was Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, who said that a Middle East peace settlement must be “within the framework of international legitimacy and the appropriate terms of reference, where the choice will be that of a just peace, as called for in the Arab Peace Initiative.”
That plan is based on the principle of land for peace adopted in Beirut in 2002. It calls for Israel to withdraw from all Arab lands occupied since 1967, recognize an independent Palestinian State and provide a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees. In return Arab countries would recognize Israel, end their conflict and normalize relations.
“In this respect, there is a need for a peaceful settlement on the Syrian track, including a withdrawal from the occupied Arab Syrian Golan and the remaining Lebanese territories,” Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa told delegates.
Further, Israeli incursions into Lebanon must also come to an end, he said.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the nearby United Arab Emirates, expressed his nation’s concern about “Israel’s growing lack of interest in negotiations.”
He called on the international community, the Security Council and the member of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet – comprising the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States – to “exert further pressure on Israel.”
The Foreign Minister voiced hope that such pressure would compel the country to lift “the siege it has imposed on the Palestinian people, and [implement] the international resolutions related to halting and eliminating all its unlawful settlement activities and the ending of its occupation of all those Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967.”
Oman’s Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sayyid Badr Bin Hama Al Busaidi, spoke out against Israeli’s policies, citing the closure of crossing points and building of checkpoints which he said impeded Palestinians’ daily lives.
He called on the international community to step up its efforts to make Israel take on its responsibilities, stressing that a peace settlement was the only option for coexistence among the region’s people.
Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said he was pleased to note recent progress, encouraging perseverance in pursuing reconciliation.
Peace cannot be achieved without settling the Palestinian question, and he underscored that a just accord in the region requires Israel restoring Palestinians’ rights and returning all property it has occupied.
Mr. Medelci also appealed for increased humanitarian assistance to help the plight of suffering Palestinians.