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Deiss urges Israeli PM to respect human rights

Joseph Deiss (right) sought assurances from Arial Sharon that Israel would respect human rights

(Keystone)

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has urged the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to respect human rights in his dealings with the Palestinians. Speaking after their meeting in Jerusalem, Deiss said the Israeli leader had made clear that security was his main concern.

Deiss said he had also asked Sharon to make sure that aid organisations working in the Palestinian territories were allowed to carry on the work without interference.

He was addressing journalists after an hour-long meeting with Sharon in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

Sharon made no comment on the meeting, but Deiss said that the Israeli prime minister had clearly stated that security was his top priority, and that he would "everything in his power" to guarantee the safety of Israel's population.

Deiss added that Sharon had made clear that his administration had no plans to build new Israeli settlements in the disputed territories.

The two men also discussed possible areas of Swiss-Israeli cooperation. Deiss said Sharon had expressed an interest in Swiss economic assistance, possibly for water supply projects in both Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Deiss was also scheduled to meet the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, on Monday. Sharon said earlier that Switzerland had shown how people of different cultures could co-exist, and that Israel had much to learn from the Swiss example.

Deiss, who is on a five-day trip to the region, spent much of the weekend visiting the Palestinian territories, including a refugee camp in Bethlehem.

He said on Sunday that "The situation in the Palestinian areas is extremely difficult and precarious", and that Israel's blockade of West Bank towns was causing further instability.

In a meeting with the Israeli president, Moshe Katsev, Deiss said that while Switzerland understood Israel's concerns about security, it also supported the Palestinians' rights to self-determination.

swissinfo with agencies


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