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Goff welcomes successful Palestinian election

Hon Phil Goff Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

10 January 2005

Goff welcomes successful Palestinian election

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today welcomed the successful completion of the Palestinian Authority's Presidential election but warned the election was only one step towards a lasting resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict.

Palestinian Liberation Organisation Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) has claimed victory and exit polls suggest that he is a clear winner of the election, which attracted a high turnout despite being boycotted by militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Final results in the election, held to find a successor to former chairman Yasser Arafat who died last November, will be known late today or early tomorrow.

"The election represents a crucial democratic decision by the Palestinian people, and a promising new opportunity for peace if all parties grasp the opportunity and make it work," Mr Goff said.

"However it would be a grave mistake for anyone, whether Palestinian or Israeli or part of the wider international community, to expect peace to be an automatic result of this election.

"There is an urgent need to revive and complete the Road Map, involving direct dialogue and progressive action by Israel and the Palestinians, with the support of the international community led by the quartet of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia.

"The road ahead is a difficult one and can only be covered if both parties are serious about peace and have the appropriate backing from the international community. New Zealand will continue to do what it can to support those efforts.

"Mr Abbas is known to favour dialogue over armed confrontation with Israel and is regarded as one of the architects of the Oslo Peace Accords. Although critical of Israel during the election campaign, he has also said he would push for peace negotiations with Israel as soon as the new Palestinian Cabinet was appointed," Mr Goff said.

Mr Abbas, 69, co-founded the PLO's main political grouping Fatah, and was Palestinian Prime Minister for four months from May 2003. Mr Goff held discussions with him in Ramallah at that time. Mr Abbas resigned after an unsuccessful effort to take over control of the Palestinian security forces.

ENDS

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