Israel, Palestine urged to enter negotiations

Updated: 2011-09-27 14:16


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UNITED NATIONS - German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged here on Monday that Israel and Palestine should begin peace negotiations soon, as he believes a peaceful two-state solution between the two is possible through talks.

Westerwelle made the call when addressing the 66th session of the UN General Assembly during its annual general debate.

"The confrontation of words here in New York must not be allowed to lead to an escalation of violence in the Middle East," he said. "Therefore, I call on both sides -- Palestinians and Israelis -- to enter into direct negotiations without delay."

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has become more visible at the 66th session due to the decision of Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas to pursue UN member statehood for Palestine. Israel, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has opposed to this move, and made the rejection clear in a speech to the General Assembly on September 23, the same day Abbas submitted the bid and advocated it in his assembly speech.

"Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is possible," Westerwelle said. "A Palestinian state is possible. Two states existing side by side are possible. However this can only be achieved through negotiations."

Abbas' statehood application is currently under review in the Security Council, whose approval and recommendation is a must for the admission of a new UN member. However, the U.S., a close ally of Israel which has veto power on the Council, has indicated that it will use this power to thwart the Palestinian bid.

Currently, Germany is a non-permanent member of the Security Council, which has five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and 10 non-permanent members.

Westerwelle said the conflict between Israel and Palestine has indeed dominated the events at the assembly of late.

"Here in New York, President Abbas expressed the expectations of the Palestinians as well as people's understandable frustration about the lack of progress made," he said. "Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed Israel's justified desire to exist in peace within secure borders. Both sides have legitimate interests. However, these interests are certainly not irreconcilable."

The Israeli government has stated that they oppose to the Palestinian ambition for statehood at the UN, because negotiations between Israel and Palestine have not been completed. Abbas has countered that Palestine's drive for statehood does not contradict or seek to undermine peace talks.

Direct negotiations fell apart in October 2010, when Israel decided not to renew a moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank, causing Palestine to withdraw from the talks.

A new round of talks was proposed here on September 23 by the diplomatic Quartet for the Middle East, which consists of the UN, the US, the European Union (EU), and the Russian Federation.

Westerwelle said Germany supports the Quartet's efforts.

"The task is now to channel the energy and pressure of the last few days into a constructive process," the foreign minister said. "The two sides are called upon to come forward with comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security and to refrain from all provocative actions."

He said he would like to see a Palestinian state founded in the near future that is independent, sovereign, democratic and politically and economically viable, offering "dignity and self- determination" for Palestinians.

"However, let there be no doubt: Israel's security is one of the fundamental principles that guide the Federal Republic of Germany," he added.