Wien, 14. November 2006 Press release

Plassnik: "Hope for reorientation towards a revival of the Middle East peace process"

14.11.2006

Vienna, 14 November 2006 - At today’s Council of Ministers Foreign Minister Plassnik reported to the Federal Government on yesterday’s consultations by EU foreign ministers on the Middle East and the Balkans.

Plassnik expressed hope that the achieved agreement between President Abbas and Hamas on a new Palestinian Prime Minister would prove "a reorientation towards a positive direction." The initial response by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to this new development also gave "reason for hope that the current political deadlock can finally be broken."

"What is important now is the swift formation of a Palestinian government of national unity which is clearly committed to the basic principles formulated by the international community - renunciation of violence, acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist, and acknowledgement of existing agreements," Plassnik stressed. At the same time both sides would have to take further specific measures, for instance the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier, the Palestinian members of government and members of Parliament. "The time has come for leaders on both sides to make a stand and take forward-looking decisions," emphasised the Foreign Minister.

"But above all the daily violence has to be brought to an end," the Foreign Minister stressed, pointing out that the EU had deeply regretted the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank, and particularly Israel’s unacceptable military operation at Beit Hanoun and the continued bombardment of Israel from the Palestinian territories. "It is high time for a comprehensive reorientation towards confidence-building and cooperation in the Middle East. It is only on this basis that we can start to revive the peace process," said the Foreign Minister.

With regard to the situation in Kosovo, Plassnik said that the status negotiations were now entering the decisive stage. "Ahtisaari and his team need our full support now. In this respect, the EU must continue to show a united front," said Plassnik. This was even more important as the EU would continue to assume major responsibility within the framework of the international presence. Plassnik also stressed the need to safeguard the vital interests of minorities in the solution of the status issue. "It is important to establish conditions to ensure that the rights of minorities are protected and to guarantee that minorities are suitably represented in Kosovan institutions," continued the Foreign Minister.

There had also been an agreement among EU foreign ministers on the need to further stress the advantages of a European perspective to the civil society in Serbia. "People do not want vague declarations of intent but specific projects - only in this way can we communicate directly with the people. We have elaborated specific proposals within the Regional Partnership. The fact that the Finnish Presidency has taken up essential elements from this paper shows our thematic leadership in supporting the democratic and pro-European forces in Serbia," Plassnik stressed.

Austria, however, would also continue with its projects at the bilateral level: "In our cooperation with Eastern Europe we are contributing to this goal through projects in the fields of education, land reform, and judicial reform. In doing so, we are particularly concerned to reach the young people in Serbia as it is their future that will be affected by the forthcoming important decisions in Serbia.

Contact:
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Press Department
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213
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