Wien, 6. February 2007 Press release

Plassnik: "We are determined to get the Middle East peace process moving again"

06.02.2007

Foreign Minister discusses situation in the Middle East with British Secretary of State Kim Howells

Vienna, 6 February 2007 - "The latest meeting of the international Middle East Quartet provided a very important impetus to get the Middle East peace process moving again. It could also become a first signal of hope for the people in the region," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik following her meeting with the British Minister of State Kim Howells.

Plassnik and Howells both welcomed Saudi Arabia's mediation initiative as an important contribution to help overcome internal Palestinian contention. "We hope that the Palestinians will be able to agree on a platform of national unity, which, in turn, will enable the EU to cooperate directly with the Palestinian authorities," said Plassnik, referring to the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) established under Austria's EU Presidency. This mechanism demonstrates the EU's long-term commitment to the Palestinian people. "With this concrete measure we are helping 150,000 Palestinian families and are reaching almost one million people in the occupied territories. This tangible support for the people is also important to me as a sign of the European people's sympathy, both humanitarian and political," stated the Foreign Minister.

The forthcoming continuation of the talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas was another step back to the "roadmap" aimed at a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. "This path, to which there is no alternative, is arduous, and it is not free of setbacks either. However, we shall not let ourselves be argued out of our vision of a Palestinian state existing side by side in peace with Israel. The international community of states is serious in its new determination to get the peace process moving again," added the Foreign Minister.

"The EU remains a reliable partner and will also make an effective contribution to the promotion of peace efforts in the future. I support the initiative of the German Council Presidency according to which the Middle East Quartet will convene again soon to evaluate progress on a regular basis. The increased commitment of the Middle East Quartet and the regional partners is indispensable if the conflicting parties are to find their way back to a path towards peace," continued the Foreign Minister.

Plassnik took the occasion to thank Howells for the valuable British support and close cooperation in the kidnapping case involving Bert Nussbaumer.

Further topics discussed at the meeting included the situation in Iraq and Iran.

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