Egypt, Jordan, Germany, France push for resuming Middle East peace talks
Egypt, Jordan, Germany and France on Monday asserted their commitment to supporting all efforts aimed at resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as their foreign ministers met in Cairo in an attempt to revive the Middle East peace process.
The meeting comes as two Gulf Arab countries - the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain - as well as Sudan and Morocco have normalised relations with Israel. The Palestinians have been critical of the deals, mediated by the United States.
In a joint statement following the meeting, the top diplomats affirmed that resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution is an indispensable requirement to comprehensive peace in the region. They called on the two sides to refrain from any unilateral measures undermining the future of a fair and lasting solution to the conflict. They said they will work with the United States to revive a credible peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Scars on Middle East landscape bear witness to past peace failures
As the first phase of President Donald Trumpʹs peace plan gets underway, talk of Middle East peace is in the air again. Bearing witness to the difficulty of the task are the scars left by wars past across the landscape of Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the Golan Heights. By Stephen Farrell
The Golan is strewn with reminders of the 1967 and 1973 wars between Israel and Syria: minefields, foxholes and abandoned armour
Buildings constructed during the British Mandate era to serve as jails and fortified positions are seen in Al-Jiftlik village near Jericho, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Long abandoned, sheep now wander through the empty buildings, searching for vegetation in the scorching heat of the Jordan Valley. The Israeli military sometimes uses them for training, Palestinian residents say
Huge amounts of money were spent creating the institutions of the Palestinian Authority under its first president, Yasser Arafat, who used Gaza's airport to fly abroad on official visits. Yet, following 9/11, the airport was an early casualty of the ʹwar on terrorʹ: Israeli air strikes and bulldozers destroyed its runway during the second Palestinian Intifada, a few months after the atttacks on the World Trade Center
An abandoned mosque on a rainy morning in the Golan Heights, in territory that Israel captured from Syria and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war: until 1967 a Syrian village inhabited by Circassians stood near the site, which now lies just 5km on the Israeli side of the United Nations-monitored 'Area of Separation' that divides Israeli and Syrian military forces under a 1974 ceasefire agreement
Part of a trench visible in a former Jordanian military post known as Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, now preserved as a memorial: originally built by the British, the site was captured by Jordan in the 1948-1949 war and held by them until Israeli troops took it in the 1967 Six Day War
Arafat’s helicopter – the presidential transport of a long-dead president – is now a rotorless relic on public display in Gaza City, while the skeletal remains of Gaza Airport lie gutted and abandoned close to the southern border with Egypt
An upturned Syrian tank lies in the Hermon Stream in the Banias Nature Reserve on the western edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel captured the moutainous plateau, a former demilitarized zone, from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War. Today, Israeli tourists carve graffiti into the metal of the tank while dangling their feet in the foaming water below
The wall of a structure in a former Syrian outpost in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the territory that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. In stark contrast to the beauty of the surrounding countryside, it is now crumbling and covered in graffiti, one Arabic message reading: "The Syrian army passed by here"
A house in Lifta, a ruined Palestinian Arab village whose inhabitants left or were forced from their homes in the conflict that accompanied the end of British rule and the founding of Israel in 1948. The abandoned ruins are visible to travellers arriving at the western entrance of Jerusalem
Part of a structure at a former Jordanian military base near the Dead Sea in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The building has stood deserted since the 1967 Middle East war when Israel captured the area from the Jordanians
A sign warning of landmines is seen on a fence in the Golan Heights, the territory that Israel captured from Syria and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. Many Israeli and foreign tourists drive past the site on their way to popular holiday spots
British soldiers depicted in a mural on an old pillbox in Jerusalem: dating back to the era of British Mandatory rule before 1948, the pillbox stands abandoned at a busy intersection in Jerusalem. The mural was added in recent years
Concrete blast walls in an open area once used by the Israeli military near Rahat, southern Israel. Once part of a facility for training in urban warfare, the barriers are now an isolated scar on the landscape
There have been no direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians for almost seven years after the last attempt in April 2014 failed, despite the efforts of then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi slammed Israel's plans to build new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, saying the move is a "blatant violation to international law."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that he is working to advance the construction of 800 new housing units for settlers in the West Bank. "The step adds to other Israeli steps that undermine the two-state solution and all chances to achieve lasting and comprehensive peace," Safadi told a press conference following the meeting."
Such measures do not create an environment that push forward towards the resumption of negotiations," Safadi said. "We will continue to work to pave the way for the return to negotiations." He called for taking clear stances against Israel's settlement building and expansion, demolition of homes and confiscation of lands.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said his country's position in the peace talks remain unchanged, which backs the establishment of a Palestinian state on the lines of the June 4, 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.
"This should be done without threatening the security of the state of Israel," he said. "The existence of two states side by side is the guarantee for stability in our region," he added.
France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for launching a dialogue with both sides. The dialogue should replace the unilateral measure, he added.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the normalisation of ties between Israel and the four Arabic countries showed that "peace does not have to be an alien concept in this region anymore." However, he also dampened hopes that the Middle East conflict would be high on the agenda of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, whose inauguration is on 20 January.
Due to upcoming elections in Israel, real progress would come in the second half of the year, Maas estimated, urging the implementation of trust-building measures between the two conflict parties until then. (dpa)