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Germany, Egypt demandPalestinian seat at talks

Published on 16/04/2004

Germany, Egypt demand Palestinian seat at negotiations16 April 2004

HANOVER – The leaders of Germany and Egypt – in a veiled of criticism of the US – demanded Friday that Palestinians be included in any future negotiations on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“The Palestinians have a right not to be excluded with decisions being made over their head, ” said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder after talks with Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak.

At the same time, Schroeder warned there would be little chance of success in Iraq unless the United Nations is given a vastly expanded role.

“Without a clearly strengthened role for UN there will hardly be chances of positive developments in Iraq or for Iraq,” said Schroeder at the news briefing with Mubarak.

Germany led European opposition to the Iraq war last year and Schroeder has refused to send any troops to Iraq.

Officials in Berlin won’t say if they would consider deploying soldiers in Baghdad under a new UN mandate. The war is deeply unpopular with the public making parliamentary approval for such a move unlikely.

At the press conference with Schroeder, Mubarak went on to day that the United States sponsored road map for peace in the Middle East could only be realised “with the participation of the Palestinians.”

Both leaders were reacting to US President George W. Bush’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington earlier this week.

President Bush, in a policy shift and major concession to Israel, announced that Washington would not object if Israel kept some settlements in the West Bank.

No representatives from the Palestinians took part in the meeting and Bush’s move provoked Palestinian and Arab anger.

“Borders can only be set and the right of return for Palestinians can only be decided by negotiations,” declared Mubarak.

Schroeder agreed, noting that issues in the road map – which is aimed at creating a Palestinian state by 2005 – could only be hammered out with Palestinian participation.

“What’s important is that no negotiation over the final status is anticipated in advance thus setting precedents,” Schroeder warned.

Despite this criticism, both Mubarak and Schroeder were at pains to stress that Sharon’s agreement on an Israeli pull-out from the Gaza Strip was a positive development.

The German government on Thursday – in contrast to many other countries – warmly welcomed plans by Prime Minister Sharon to close all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and some in the West Bank.

Earlier, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Europe is poised to play a bigger role in the Mideast.

“Europe will gain a decisive role in the coming months in moving forward peace and stability,” said Fischer after meeting Mubarak.

Fischer did not give details of any new European Union initiatives but said Europe was now needed “more than ever” in the bid to defuse the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Mubarak met with Schroeder and Fischer in the German leader’s home town of Hanover. Mubarak is on his way home after talks with Bush in Washington.



Subject: German news