Wien, 1 December 2003 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner describes Geneva Initiative for the Middle East as a "signal of hope"


Vienna, 1 December 2003 - Despite the considerable scepticism shown by both Israeli and Palestinian public opinion, Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs Ferrero-Waldner today described the comprehensive draft proposal for a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians that is to be presented in Geneva this evening (1.12.2003) as a "signal of hope".

Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner said that her hope was based on the fact that for the first time in the long history of the Middle East conflict the negotiating teams had succeeded in formulating compromises that take account of the fundamental demands and concerns of both parties on all central questions. "At the same time, a signal is being sent out to the civil society in Israel and the Palestinian Territories that partners for a new peaceful order can indeed be found on the respective other side. Austria supports this initiative, as we support all forward-looking initiatives in the Middle East process that address themselves directly to the people on both sides of the conflict. Since we in Europe are neighbours of the region, security, peace and stability in the Middle East are of central importance to both Austrian and EU foreign policy", emphasised the Foreign Minister.

The proposal, which builds upon the negotiations held within the framework of the Middle East peace process over the last few years, contains an agreement on the coexistence of two states, Israel and Palestine, within secure and recognised borders and with a divided Jerusalem as the common capital.

The supporters and negotiators of the so-called "Geneva Accords" are Israeli opposition politicians and members of the "peace camp" on the one hand and Palestinian politicians on the other, though the latter are not acting in an official capacity on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, but as representatives of the civil society.