Burg to Visit Ramallah; Al-Zaanoun to Go to Jerusalem

Published February 18th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Speaker of the Israeli parliament, Avraham Burg, has accepted an invitation to address the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the Palestinian assembly in Ramallah, the Greek parliament said on Sunday, according to AFP


It stated that Salim al-Zaanoun, speaker of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) parliament in exile, the Palestinian National Council, would meanwhile visit the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem. 


Both Burg and al-Zaanoun would be accompanied on their peace-making missions "during the next 10 days" by the speakers of the Greek, Spanish and Swedish parliament, who had jointly organized an hour-long meeting between the two in the Greek capital on Sunday, the Greek parliament said in a statement. 


"There has to be an effort, an efficient one, not a symbolic gesture, to resolve the [Arab-Israeli] crisis and return to peace," Greek speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis told a conference on European-Mediterranean cooperation in Athens as he issued an announcement on the two visits. 


The conference, which brought together parliamentary speakers from countries of the European Union and the Mediterranean, issued a closing statement calling upon both Israelis and Palestinians to "show greater moderation and return to the negotiating table". 


It said a just and sustainable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict had to be based on the principle of 'land for peace', respect for UN resolutions, the Palestinians' right to self-determination and an independent state, and Israel's right to live in peace and security. 


The conference welcomed the meeting between Burg and al-Zaanoun and their planned visits. 


Burg caused uproar in Israel last month when he said he would accept an invitation to address the Palestinian parliament in the West Bank town of Ramallah, in spite of objections from the Israeli government. 


Israel’s Defence Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, who defeated Burg in last December's elections for the leadership of the Israeli Labor Party, pledged to ban Burg from attending the Ramallah assembly. 


Burg sparked further anger from Israeli hard-liners on January 28 when he publicly denounced Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. 


The Palestinian Parliament has invited Burg to visit "to strengthen the dialogue between the members who support peace and dialogue in both councils". 


It says its invitation is one of several efforts "aimed at reviving the peace process ... ending the Israeli occupation and enhancing the cooperation and co-existence between the two sides on the June 4, 1967, borders". 


Last Thursday, Burg and al-Zaanoun met with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and urged the 15-nation EU to play a more active role in ending the Middle East bloodshed. 


"We deeply appreciate the EU's efforts to end the violence. If it succeeds, it will be historic," al-Zaanoun told the conference. 


"With the gestures our two parliaments have made and which I totally support, we should encourage our two governments to foster peace in the region," Burg added. 


Burg said he and al-Zaanoun "should send a message of peace and the EU should launch economic and diplomatic initiatives". 


"This period is dominated by extremists. We have to make every effort possible to return to peace and put a red line between us and the past. We have lost confidence in each other," he added. (Albawaba.com) 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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