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Deiss to raise Palestinian situation with Israeli PM

Joseph Deiss (right) is expected to urge Ariel Sharon to ease the Israel's blockade of West Bank towns


The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has been holding talks with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in Jerusalem. Deiss said before the meeting that he intended to raise the situation in the Palestinian territories, which he visited over the weekend.

Deiss was expected to push Sharon to lift the blockade imposed on Palestinian towns in West Bank. He said earlier that Switzerland had "good, friendly relations with Israel", and that he was confident of holding fruitful discussions about the Palestinian situation.

Deiss is also scheduled to meet his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, on Monday.

The meetings come on the third day of Deiss's trip to the region. He spent the weekend visiting the Palestinian territories, including a refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Wrapping up that visit on Sunday, he concluded that "The situation in the Palestinian areas is extremely difficult and precarious". He said the Palestinians saw their situation as increasingly hopeless, and that their economic difficulties - caused in part by the Israeli blockade of West Bank towns - meant the area was tinderbox.

On Sunday, Deiss held talks with the Israeli president, Moshe Katsev, and told him that while Switzerland understood Israel's concerns about security, it also supported the Palestinians' rights to self-determination.

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

swissinfo with agencies


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