New York, 28. September 2007 Press release

Plassnik: "The Middle East is at a crossroads"

28.09.2007

"Middle East Afternoon" with the Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly

New York, 28 September 2007 - "The Middle East is currently the focus of international attention once again - the Middle East peace process is at a crossroads, and the coming weeks will point the way forward. Therefore, I very intentionally spent a Middle East afternoon with a series of bilateral talks today", said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik today after the meetings she had held with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Iran’s and Syria’s Foreign Ministers Manouchehr Mottaki and Walid Al-Mousalem, and the Foreign Minister of Israel Tzipi Livi.

"Peace in the Middle East urgently needs a new drive. The need for lip service and declarations of intent is already covered in the region. At the very first, the living conditions of the Palestinians must be dramatically improved and a humane existence made possible. The people there need new perspectives of hope", said Foreign Minister Plassnik, adding that "The planned Middle East Conference can become the cornerstone for sustainable peace. A comprehensive regional approach is required to achieve this."

"A political no man's land must not be allowed to exist in Middle East peace work. Therefore, Syria cannot be left outside. We must integrate Syria firmly into the international fabric of responsibility. The upcoming presidential elections in Lebanon are a test for Syria’s regional responsibility", said Plassnik.

The Foreign Minister made the following comments in connection with Iran’s nuclear programme: "El Baradei’s approach of a double time-out - stop of uranium enrichment and simultaneous suspension of all sanctions - points the way out of the spiral of sanctions and escalation. The ball is now in Iran’s court: It can choose between further isolation and a return to the path of dialogue. One thing is clear: the international community is united in its rejection of Iranian nuclear weapons."

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