Ramallah/Jerusalem, 27 June 2005 Press release

Plassnik: "Seizing the opportunity offered by the Gaza Disengagement"


Foreign Minister met Palestinian President and Prime Minister

Ramallah/Jerusalem, 27 June 2005 - "Palestinians, Israelis and their partners now have to undertake every effort to make the Gaza disengagement a success", Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik stressed today, Monday, following her working discussions with Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Korei. Paying tribute to the encouraging developments of the last few months, the Foreign Minister then called upon all parties involved to seize the opportunity opening up now.

"Austria and the European Union specifically also support the mission of former World Bank President and Middle East Quartet Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement, James Wolfensohn. The expertise offered by Wolfensohn and his team is particularly valuable." The Foreign Minister announced that "Austria will contribute actively to his project and focus her main efforts in this context on building up capacities aimed at permanently strengthening the rule of law. Austria is making available EUR 1 million to this end and will inter alia prepare an offer for the training of high-ranking officials."

Plassnik pointed out that the cessation of all acts of violence and coordination between the Israeli and Palestinian parties represented the sine qua non for the success of the disengagement from Gaza. The Foreign Minister appealed to her Palestinian interlocutors to do everything in their power to prevent the use of violence. "Attacks and violence are the largest stumbling-blocks on the road towards security, a political resolution based on the two-state solution and permanent peace", said Plassnik.

In her discussions with representatives of the Palestinian civil society, the people living in the West Bank shared their sorrows and fears with the Foreign Minister and told her first hand about their concerns regarding the Israeli settlement policy and the erection of the wall in particular. In her statement the Foreign Minister subsequently drew special attention to the close interrelation between the issue of security and the quest for a political solution to the conflict, the improvement of the Palestinians’ living conditions and democracy and the rule of law. In this connection Plassnik welcomed the progress made on the road towards democracy, and especially the holding of the Palestinian presidential and local elections.

Yesterday, Sunday, the Foreign Minister met the Israeli heads of state to get an insight into their view of the situation in the Middle East.

On Monday Plassnik’s visit to Ramallah continued with a meeting with the Palestinian Authority Planning Minister Khatib, with whom she primarily discussed issues relating to development cooperation. The Foreign Minister then visited a health care project funded by the Austrian development assistance programme. Under its bilateral development assistance policy Austria set up a special programme for the Palestinian Territories and invested more than EUR 30 million between 1994 and 2004.