Britain, Germany warn against Middle East talks failure

2nd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain and Germany threw their weight behind Thursday's direct talks in Washington between Israel and the Palestinians, warning that "failure would be very serious".

Saying the European Union stood ready to support the negotiations, Foreign Secretary William Hague and his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle urged the two sides to show "perseverance, commitment and courage".

Westerwelle called the talks a "direct chance for success," but warned that radicals in the Middle East would try to stifle their progress.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas are in the US capital for their first direct talks in 20 months.

The negotiations were of "historic importance", Hague told reporters, following a meeting with Westerwelle at the Foreign Office in London.

"We stand ready with our European partners to do all that we can to buttress those talks and to work with countries in the region to that end," he said.

"We look to Prime Minister Netanyahu and president Abbas to show the perseverance, commitment and courage needed to achieve a sovereign, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside a safe and secure Israel and their other neighbours in the region," Hague added.

"Failure would be very serious but we hope that the courage and commitment will be shown to bring about that success."

Westerwelle said the talks offered an "opportunity, no more or less", as he expressed "careful and cautious optimism".

The start of direct talks already constituted "enormous progress", the German foreign minister said.

Westerwelle called on all sides to "work hard to create the conditions which make the success of these peace talks possible".

"We believe them to be a direct chance for success," he said.

"No-one knows here and now where these talks will lead, whether they will end in success or not. We encourage all parties and all sides to engage in a constructive spirit and not to be diverted from the path leading towards peace."

He added: "We expect many radical forces to try hard to lay hurdles in the path of the negotiations. Thus we will make use of our influence to encourage the moderate and constructive forces so they can keep the upper hand."

"No-one is in a position to say what the outcome is going to be 12 months from now."

© 2010 AFP

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