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UN meeting on Middle East peace urges support for new Palestinian Government

26 March 2007 The international community has an obligation to support the new Palestinian National Unity Government without preconditions and to lift the aid restrictions imposed on it, according to participants in a United Nations meeting on Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The UN International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, held at the Rome headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 22-23 March, welcomed the formation of the Government and voiced the hope that the development would allow the international community to restore much-needed economic and humanitarian aid and help to move the peace process forward.

The participants emphasized that the decades-old conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians was increasingly becoming a key symbol of a perceived rift between the Western and Islamic societies.

They stressed that the lack of progress in Middle East peacemaking and, most notably, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had exacerbated feelings of frustration and mutual mistrust that were fuelling extremism on a local, regional and world scale. They also felt that it was based on distorted interpretations of religious motives, aimed at transforming a political problem into a cultural and religious divide, and at disrupting the dialogue and interchanges across cultures and civilizations.

The Meeting, convened by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, held three plenary sessions focusing on the significance of peace in the Middle East for the advancement of the dialogue between cultures and civilizations; the role of parliaments in promoting dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians; and the urgency of restoring momentum to the peace process and forging a vision of a final settlement.

Committee Chairman Paul Badji of Senegal said in his closing statement that as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had not been settled in a comprehensive, just and lasting manner, there would be no peace. Moreover peace would be impossible without an end to the occupation.

In a message opening the meeting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is currently in the Middle East pushing efforts to promote a peace deal, said a parallel commitment by both Israel and the Palestinians was essential for advancing on key issues.

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