Abu Ala: Palestinians Ready to Accept 'International Jerusalem'
The Palestinians are ready to accept "a unified international Jerusalem" if that is what it takes to reach peace with Israel, Palestinian legislature speaker Ahmed Qorei, known also as Abu Ala, said Tuesday.
"Unless we can reach an agreement on Jerusalem, I have to declare that we agree that both parts of Jerusalem -- the western part and the eastern part -- should be a unified international Jerusalem," he said in an address to the European Parliament.
"It would no longer be the capital of Israeli or Palestine, but a capital of the world," he said to applause from European MPs.
Ala was speaking before the European Union's elected chamber together with Israeli Knesset president Avraham Burg, who warmly shook hands with Abu Ala before he took his turn at the microphone.
"Now I am an optimist," Burg declared, adding later in this speech that it was worth studying.
"I would like a peace in the Middle East that is not a win-lose situation," he said, adding that he wanted Israel to be the first country to recognize a new Palestinian state.
Both men were scheduled to hold a press conference later Tuesday.
Their joint appearance in Strasbourg came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York that Israelis and Palestinians only had "weeks" to reach a peace accord.
The Palestinians initially planned to declare a state September 13, although leaders have indicated recently that this date is not written in stone.
"If the gap widens, it really is because of the question of Jerusalem," said Abu Ala, a long-time close associate of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Most observers agree, however, that the fallback deadline is the US presidential elections in early November. The United States is acting as the broker in the peace process.
Burg said the Jerusalem question was "bigger than anything anyone has witnessed in life, politically," but he insisted that lasting peace can yet be negotiated.
"I prefer the frustration of negotiations over the funerals of wars," he said.
Burg won a round of applause from Euro MPs when he identified religious fundamentalism as the greatest danger to the future security of the Middle East and beyond.
It was a choice, he said, between "a black coalition" of fundamentalists and "a coalition of peace oriented towards Europe and the rest of western civilization." - STRASBOURG (AFP)
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