Accessibility links

British, Israeli FMs Discuss Mideast Peace Process - 2004-03-02


The foreign ministers of Israel and Britain have met in London to talk about restarting the peace process in the Middle East. The two men also condemned terrorist attacks against Shi'ite Muslim communities in Iraq and Pakistan.

Following talks with his British counterpart, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said at a London news conference that extremists must be reined in before peace talks can resume.

"It is clear that, without concerted and effective Palestinian action to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, as called for in the road map, it will not be possible to resume political talks and to implement the road-map's vision for peace," he said.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Mr. Shalom also talked about the contentious security barrier Israel is building in the West Bank. The British position is that the barrier should not be erected, but Mr. Shalom reiterated, his government sees it as absolutely necessary.

"We will continue to take necessary measures to protect our civilians from harm, including building [a] security fence," he said. "The fence protects lives. It is for this reason and this reason only that we will complete its construction."

Britain's top diplomat said he saw no problem with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans for an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, as long as the Jewish settlers there were relocated to Israel rather than in the West Bank.

"From our point of view, we welcome any end to occupation in principle," said Mr. Straw. "What is crucial is the conditions in which that takes place, the security conditions and the political conditions, and our concern that any settlements, any settlers transferred from Gaza should be resettled within mainland, the main part of Israel, and not within the West Bank."

Mr. Straw condemned the bombings at Shi'ite Muslim shrines in Iraq and an attack on Shi'ite worshipers in Pakistan, and he expressed condolences to the families of the victims. He said the timing of the attacks in Iraq was not accidental.

"It is no coincidence, in my judgment, that these events have occurred both on the day that celebrations in the Shi'ite community and of devotion by them, but also just a day after there was the very good news from Iraq of the agreement for what amounts to an interim constitution, transitional administrative law to pave the way for the end to formal occupation by coalition forces at the end of June and the beginnings of representative democratic government in Iraq," he said.

Mr. Shalom echoed those sentiments, and he urged the international community to step up efforts to combat global terrorism.

XS
SM
MD
LG