Tuesday, October 12, 2010

(NEWS) Finnish President Halonen Arrives In Israel At Crucial Phase Of Peace Talks

"Foreign Minister Stubb wants EU to have stronger role in Mideast peace process.

The state visit to Israel by Finnish President Tarja Halonen begins on Tuesday at an exceptionally interesting time. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are - once again - at a turning point. The President is on a Mideast tour that includes visits to Jordan, Israel, and Palestine.

'From the point of view of the continuity of the peace talks, the decisive period is a matter of hours - possibly a few days', said Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party).

On Monday Stubb was in the Jordanian capital Amman where he met with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki. Also taking part in the working lunch was Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been put on hold because of the resumption of construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The Arab League announced on Friday that Israel has a month to announce the suspension of settlement construction, and that if Israel and the United States do not reach agreement on the construction ban, negotiations would be cut off completely.

'The one-month deadline nevertheless gave new oxygen to the negotiations', Stubb said.

Stubb said that Abbas described the situation as difficult, but he was still cautiously optimistic about the continuity of the peace process. Abbas nevertheless set the suspension of construction as an absolute precondition for continued talks.

Under the leadership of President Barack Obama, the United States has tried to push peace talks forward. The Arab countries have long been calling on the EU to take a stronger political role, partly to balance the influence of the United States.

'The key message of the lunch was that the EU would give its strong support to the peace process', Stubb said.

On Tuesday, President Halonen and Foreign Minister Stubb are meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. Finland’s aim at the meeting is to try to promote the Mideast peace process as much as possible.

'The situation in the peace process is very sensitive now', Halonen said. 'We need to be careful to avoid saying anything that would rock the boat.'" (source)

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