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Calmy-Rey laments situation in the West Bank

Calmy-Rey expressed concern for the Palestinians' plight during a visit to the West Bank on Friday Keystone Archive

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has expressed concern over the “disastrous” economic situation in the occupied territories.

This content was published on February 4, 2005 - 20:13

Visiting the West Bank on the second day of her Middle East trip, she promised Swiss support to the Palestinian people.

Speaking in Arab East Jerusalem on Friday night, Calmy-Rey said she had been struck by the economic problems and the urgent need for dialogue with Israel.

“I saw checkpoints, expanding Israeli settlements… but for me the main impression was of the disastrous economic situation and the sense that dialogue must resume as quickly as possible,” the foreign minister said.

Referring to the spread of the settlements, she said that if one compared a map of the area in 1947 with a current map “one would understand better this sense of urgency”.

Calmy-Rey added that improvements in the humanitarian situation as well as in the economic and security situation were essential if peace were to be established.

“[In this respect] There are very high expectations of Switzerland, as the depositary state of the Geneva Conventions,” she commented.

Divided city

Earlier in the day, Calmy-Rey visited Hebron where she held talks with the city’s governor, Arif Jabari, and promised Switzerland’s support to the Palestinian people.

Jabari told the Swiss foreign minister about the problems in the divided city, where 700 Jewish settlers live next to 120,000 Palestinians.

According to Jabari, settlers are occupying more and more land in the city and extending their settlements.

Calmy-Rey also visited the offices of the United Nations observer mission, Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), which mediates between the two sides and is supported by Switzerland.

The foreign minister paid tribute to a Swiss worker at the mission who was killed in an attack almost three years ago.

During a visit to Bethlehem, Calmy-Rey met the director of the Swiss-funded Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ).

Jad Isaac told the foreign minister he was not optimistic about the future as long as Israel continued its settlement policy.

ARIJ, which was founded in 1990, aims to give the Palestinian people maximum control over their natural resources.

Calmy-Rey began her Middle East visit on Thursday with a meeting with the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ) was founded in 1990.
It is funded by Switzerland.
The aim of ARIJ is to promote the development of the Palestinian territories and give the population control over their natural resources.

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In brief

On the second day of her Middle East trip, Micheline Calmy-Rey visited Arab East Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron.

She told journalists she had been struck by the "disastrous" economic situation in the Palestinian territories, and by the urgent need for dialogue with the Israelis.

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