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Foreign Minister Fischer's trip to the Middle East

Foreign Minister Fischer's trip to the Middle East

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority from April 7 to 9. During this time he held meetings with Israeli President Moshe Katsav, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, as well as with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister designate Mahmud Abbas. Fischer characterized his visit as a "gesture of friendship and solidarity in difficult times".

Peace process

The war in Iraq and the efforts being undertaken by the international community to achieve a political solution of the Middle East conflict were the subjects discussed at the meetings held. Particular attention was given to the "roadmap" for peace in the region supported by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia. The peace process to be initiated under this plan is aimed at formal recognition of Israel's right to exist within secure borders and the creation of a democratic Palestine. The prerequisite for this happening is that concessions be made by Israelis and Palestinians within established time limits, for instance with regard to ending Israeli settlement activity on Palestinian land and with regard to reform of the Palestinian Authority. In accordance with the roadmap negotiations are to be conducted that will lead to the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

Israel's right to exist non-negotiable

After meeting with his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom in Jerusalem on April 7 Fischer said Israel's right to exist and its right to peace without terror are non-negotiable. Shalom, who has only been in office for a few weeks and for whom the meeting with Fischer was the first visit by a foreign minister to his new ministry, gave his assurances that Israel is willing to make genuine efforts to achieve peace. Fischer and Shalom underscored the importance of the US role in the peace process.

After meeting with President Katsav in Jerusalem on April 8 Fischer appealed to Israelis and Palestinians to increase their efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement of their conflict, saying that the terror and the violence will have to end.

Continuation of reforms

In meetings with Arafat and Abbas on April 9 Fischer noted that a real breakthrough in the peace process is going to be needed and emphasized the urgency of reforming the Palestinian Authority. He said he expects to see the rapid formation of a Palestinian cabinet so that the peace plan drawn up by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia can be implemented. In Ramallah Fischer met with members of the Palestinian reform committee who assured him that the reform process will be continued.

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