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Palestinian Shaath demands halt to Wall

8 January 2004

BERLIN – The Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath issued a call in Berlin this week, site of one of history’s most famous walls, for Israel to halt construction of its “separation barrier”.

Shaath, who met with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, also appealed to the European Union to back Mideast peace efforts. Emerging from the talks, he said a ceasefire was important.

A member of the Palestinian Authority cabinet, Shaath said the new Wall running along the edge of the West Bank was a disaster.

The Palestinians have roundly condemned the barrier, saying it will effectively move back the border since it is built on Palestinian land. Israel says it needs the wall to stop extremists from infiltrating and conducting suicide bomb attacks.

The wall that divided and disfigured the German capital from 1961 to 1989 was designed by its communist builders to stop East Germans fleeing to the affluent west. It was torn down after the fall of communism, but parts have been recreated as a tourist attraction.

Deutschlandradio, the national radio channel, quoted Shaath saying he did not ask Fischer for financial aid, but was confident the European Union would continue standing aid programmes.

Israel’s former ambassador to Germany, Avi Primor, meanwhile urged in a newspaper interview stronger support by the European Union member states for the unofficial Mideast peace plan signed in Geneva in early December.

In a commentary in the weekly Die Zeit newspaper, Primor said EU member states, including Germany, should be more outspoken in their support for the plan drafted by former Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed-Rabbo.

“Proof that important countries abroad are taking the Geneva agreement seriously and promoting this initiative could increase the credibility of this initiative in the eyes of Israeli citizens,” Primor wrote.

He said this especially applied to Germany, a country which “after the United States is regarded as Israel’s greatest friend in the world, but which also benefits from an especially high esteem among the Palestinians”.

The unofficial Mideast peace plan signed in Geneva in early December has been blasted as “dangerous” by Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon.

But the plan, seeking to get Israel and the Palestinians back on a road to peace in addressing crucial issues, including the status of Jerusalem, has been welcomed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and also been given tacit encouragement by the United States.


Subject: German news