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Goff On Israeli/Palestinian Crisis

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today joined other representatives of the international community in appealing to Israelis and Palestinians to step back from the brink of warfare that would be disastrous not only for their countries, but for their whole region.

"The situation in Israel and Palestine is deteriorating dangerously. Each horrific act, beamed instantly on television screens to both sides and round the world, fuels deeper hatred and adds to a downward spiral of violence and revenge.

"The killing and mutilation of at least two captive Israeli soldiers by a Palestinian mob and the retaliation by Israel with helicopter gunships attacking targets near Mr Arafat's offices, has taken the crisis to new levels.

"Today in the Middle East the situation is the most serious it has been in a decade. It threatens to spill over into more acts of terrorism worldwide.

"New Zealand supports strongly the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's to call for Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak to engage with each other and to do everything possible to restore calm.

"The futures of the Israelis and the Palestinians are bound together. This is an argument neither side can win by violence.

"The only lasting victory will be one brought about at the negotiating table.

"New Zealand, of course, can do little on its own. But, we can and will lend our weight, through the United Nations, to the calls for peace.

"New Zealand is also giving $100,000 to the "United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine in the Near East" for emergency medical relief and supplies.

"We continue to have a peacekeeping presence in the area, with 26 armed peacekeepers in Sinai and another 7 unarmed peacekeepers with the United Nations in Israel and Syria."

ENDS

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