23 October 2003


(Received from a UN Information Officer)

SEVILLE, 22 October -- The second day of the international media seminar on the question of peace in the Middle East, now taking place in Seville, Spain, reaffirmed the usefulness of dialogue and mutual understanding among the parties to the conflict in the region.

In his welcoming remarks this morning, Manuel Chaves, President of the Regional Autonomous Government of Andalucia (Junta de Andalucia), noted that the presence in Andalucia of the United Nations, and the message sent by the Secretary-General to this meeting, as well as the involvement in the meeting by the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, and the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, showed the commitment of the world body to peace in the Middle East.  He expressed his conviction that new actors in international relations, such as the regional government he chairs, must contribute to the efforts of the United Nations and the other members of the quartet -- United States, European Union and Russian Federation -- in their peace efforts.

The keynote address was given by Terje Roed-Larsen, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who also moderated today’s sessions.  He said that recent events had convinced him more than ever that the goals set out in the Road Map -- achieving the establishment of a State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel, on the basis of 1967 borders and the end of terrorism and a comprehensive regional settlement -- were the only viable paths to peace.

The participants heard six speakers this morning.

Dr. Nabil Shaath, Foreign Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, emphasized the urgent need to do something to end the cycle of violence in the Middle East, and he said the international community had a role to play in getting the two sides back to the negotiating table.

Avraham Burg, Member of the Israeli parliament, speaking about the settlements in the occupied territory, said Israel needed to be sensitive to the Palestinian viewpoint on this issue.

Stephen P. Cohen, founder of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development, suggested following the lead of the United Nations Secretary-General in recognizing that it was necessary to have the Israeli, Palestinian and Arab “streets” to carry the day and make sure of a sustained commitment to make peace work.

Professor Shlomo Ben Ami, former Foreign Minister of Israel, said the peace process had to have an end game, perhaps one that triggered a new United Nations resolution, with the leadership of the United States, as well as a mechanism for monitoring and supervising the resettling of refugees and resettling of settlers.

Dr. Ghassan L. Khatib, former Minister of Labour in the Palestinian Authority, noted that the engagement by the United Nations and other actors in the international community was positive, and it would be useful to encourage a debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would contribute to the peace camp.

Geoffrey Aronson, Director for Research and Publications, Foundation for Middle East Peace, said that the Israeli concern for a physical border was a recent one.

The meeting is to end this evening in Seville, with a closing statement by Mr. Roed-Larsen.

The media seminar was organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information in cooperation with the Regional Autonomous Government of Andalucia (Junta de Andalucia).  The seminar, mandated by the General Assembly resolution 57/109 of 3 December 2002, which asked the Department of Public Information to organize international, regional and national seminars or encounters for journalists, aiming in particular at sensitising public opinion to the question of Palestine, is the eleventh such event organized by Department of Public Information since the series was launched in 1991.

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