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Deiss to discuss humanitarian law with Israeli PM

Joseph Deiss met Palestinian children at a refugee camp in Bethlehem


The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, is on Monday expected to raise the issue of humanitarian law during talks with the new Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Deiss, on a five-day visit to the region, warned that there was a growing risk of instability in the Palestinian territories.

After two days in the Palestinian territories, Deiss is in Jerusalem for high-level talks with Sharon and the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres. The Swiss foreign ministry is keeping tight-lipped about the agenda, but Deiss is expected to raise the situation in the Palestinian territories with the Israeli leader.

On Sunday, Deiss expressed concern about restrictions on Palestinians' movements caused by Israel's policy of sealing off West Bank towns to prevent violence.

"The situation in the Palestinian areas is extremely difficult and precarious," he said on Sunday. He warned that the lack of hope, and the Palestinians' economic difficulties - caused in part by the Israeli blockade - meant the area was tinderbox.

On Sunday, Deiss visited a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem - to remind himself, he said, that some people had spent more than 50 years in these camps.

He later told the Israeli president, Moshe Katsev, that while Switzerland understood Israel's concerns about security, it also supported the Palestinians' rights to self-determination.

Deiss's visit comes at an increasingly difficult period for Israeli-Palestinian relations. Prime Minister Sharon, on a recent visit to Washington, blamed the violence on the Palestinians, signalling that Israel was likely to pursue a more hard-line position.

swissinfo with agencies


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