Vienna, 4 November 2006 - Foreign Minister Plassnik reacted with deep concern to the reports of numerous casualties in the Gaza Strip following the Israeli military operation at Beit Hanoun and Palestinian missile attacks against Israel. "The entire region is again on the verge of a new escalation of violence," said Plassnik.
"So far, the hopes that the end of the war in Lebanon and the efforts to form a government of national unity in the Palestinian territories might be followed by a consolidation and thus a revival of a political process have not been fulfilled," said Plassnik. "The continued rocket bombardment of Israel by Palestinian extremists, the failure of hitherto efforts to secure the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and the arrests of Palestinian politicians have, in fact, prepared the ground for a new wave of violence which must be brought to a complete halt immediately," emphasised the Foreign Minister.
"There is no alternative to our persistent efforts aimed at strengthening the constructive forces in the Middle East. It is the only possible way to re-embark on the course of political negotiations. Violence is never a solution and is no substitute for a political process," said Plassnik. To this end it was necessary to support President Mahmoud Abbas' efforts to form a Palestinian government which would again be fully capable of cooperating with the international community. In such a case Israel, too, would be challenged to realise its declared basic intention of resuming negotiations with the Palestinians. "In particular, the events in Gaza show how important it is to overcome internal Palestinian differences. The enormous desperation of the people in the region in view of the seemingly endless spiral of violence and counter-violence must be countered by a tangible and credible perspective for the future,” emphasised Plassnik.
"In this process a swift improvement of the precarious economic situation of the Palestinians also constitutes an essential element for the lasting success of political efforts. This includes issues such as freedom of movement for the Palestinians and release by Israel of the frozen Palestinian taxes and customs duties," the Foreign Minister stressed.
"We remain engaged in the Middle East issue in a sustained way. Austria will continue and increase its traditional interest and commitment in the Middle East," said Plassnik, who also made reference to the recent visit by High Representative Javier Solana to the Middle East region.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213