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Fischer calls for Mideast peace efforts

16 December 2003

CAIRO – German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, currently on a three-day tour of the Middle East, Tuesday urged the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to resume their dialogue and revive the peace process based on the internationally-brokered road map.

Following a meeting with Egypt’s President Hosny Mubarak, he praised recent Egyptian efforts to broker a cease-fire. While Fischer was in Cairo, an Egyptian delegation arrived in Gaza on Tuesday to renew recent talks with Palestinian factions about a truce.

The Egyptian delegation was also due to report to the Palestinians about the visit to Washington of Egypt’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has been acting as a broker in the cease-fire talks.

It was vital to kickstart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Fischer told his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Maher and the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amre Mussa, in further meetings in Cairo.

Fischer also hoped that the recent Geneva initiative and prominent Palestinians would help in the process, members of his delegation said.

However, during a news conference following his meeting with Mussa, Fischer defended Germany’s decision to abstain from voting in the United Nations Security Council about referring Israel to the International Court of Justice over its so-called “security fence”.

“Our position is very clear on this issue. We do not think it is politically wise to resort to the International Court of Justice at this stage because there is a possibility it will lead to reverse results,” said Fischer.

Palestinians complain that the barrier which cuts deep into Palestinian territory represents a new “Berlin Wall” and an illicit land grab by Israel.

Following a stopover in the Jordanian capital Amman, Fischer is due to travel on to Jerusalem on Tuesday. On Wednesday he is expected to meet with his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Sharon recently criticized Germany over its stance in the peace process and demanded that Fischer be more reserved in dealing with Palestinian president Yasser Arafat.

Fischer is now scheduled to meet with new Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia but no talks are planned with Arafat. The Germany foreign minister is also expected to take part in a conference on security issues.

On Tuesday in Cairo, he also commented on the situation in Iraq following the capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

He hoped that Saddam’s arrest would help to ease tensions in the country, Fischer said and urged for a swift transition of power from the US-led coalition to the Iraqis.

He also said “it would make sense” if the former dictator was made to face trial in Iraq as this was where he had committed his crimes.

Subject: German news