Vienna, 14 December 2009 - "The current standstill in the Middle East nurtures hopelessness and plays in the hands of extremists. Therefore, we need to send clear messages to our partners in the region: a credible stop to the illegal Israeli settlement policy, a lasting internal Palestinian reconciliation, and a convincing renunciation of violence remain indispensable concessions for a genuine peace process", said Foreign Minister Spindelegger after his meeting with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ehud Barak in Vienna.
"We understand Israel’s concerns over the security of its citizens, but we firmly believe that a serious peace process would represent the most effective security guarantee. No partner in the region can evade its responsibility. All sides must make their contribution to creating an atmosphere that allows for earnest negotiations. Otherwise, we are facing the threat of a renewed spiral of violence in the Middle East", Spindelegger continued.
The Foreign Minister acknowledged the measures that Barak introduced together with Prime Minister Netanyahu since their government took office, and which resulted in an improvement of the living conditions of Palestinians in parts of the West Bank, as well as in improved operating conditions for Palestinian security forces in individual cities. „These were steps in the right direction. Israeli occupation and closure measures, however, are still having a massive negative impact on the life of the Palestinian population. The situation in the Gaza Strip is particularly worrying in this respect. This continuously undermines confidence in a political process and strengthens those forces that propagate a recourse to violent methods.“
In this context, the Foreign Minister affirmed the position of Austria and the EU on the settlement issue: „Israel’s partial settlement moratorium is a first step in the right direction. The growing Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem are inconsistent with international law and represent grave obstacles to the peace process.“
"Austria remains a reliable dialogue partner for all sides in the Middle East conflict. We continue to be convinced that there is no alternative to a peace solution involving a negotiated two-state solution. In their political efforts in cooperation with the USA and the two other partners in the quartet, Austria and the EU will not hesitate a moment to support the conflict parties in returning to the negotiation table", the Foreign Minister concluded.
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