Peres wants Mideast peace conference soon
PARIS: Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on Monday backed the speedy organisation of an international conference on Middle East peace and vowed that Israel would pursue talks with
“President (Jacques) Chirac said that France was for having an international conference as soon as possible and has asked for our position,” Peres told journalists after talks with the French leader.
“And I said we too support the establishment of a conference, either international or regional, to encourage the peace process,” the minister said. When asked when it could take place, he said: “Quicker would be better.” Peres was in the French capital ahead of a trip to Washington for meetings with US officials amid increased diplomatic activity in recent days aimed at breaking the impasse between the Jewish state and the Palestinians.
Chirac and Peres also discussed international concerns about the worsening humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories, as Israel said it was stepping up efforts to improve living conditions there.
“We intend to continue to talk with the Palestinians and try to create a climate of hope,” Peres said in English.
When asked about the possible Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns as a precondition for January elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Peres was cautious.
“In every zone where they’ll be able to control the situation, we will move back, and life will return to normal,” he told the press conference.
The Israeli foreign minister also touched on the blueprint for Middle East peace laid out last month by US President George W. Bush, which called for the creation of a Palestinian state within the next three years. “This is the first time that the Palestinians can see a political horizon,” Peres said. “We have the light at the end of the tunnel, but what we need is to build the tunnel.” Peres said there was no split between himself and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on how to deal with a 22-month-long Palestinian uprising against
Israeli occupation. Peres, Israel’s leading dove, has looked increasingly isolated in recent days after saying an Israeli missile attack last week in Gaza which killed 15 people, including nine children and the head of the military wing of Hamas, was a “mistake”.
“I am convinced that Sharon is completely for a peaceful solution,” Peres told a news conference in Paris. “The fact is,
we are working together...I’m not acting alone.” —AFP/Reuters