New stab at Middle East peace on WEF sidelines

Micheline Calmy-Rey and Yasser Abed Rabbo talked peace over breakfast Keystone

Hopes for Middle East peace have been rekindled at talks attended by the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, during the WEF summit.

This content was published on January 29, 2005

She was one of five Swiss ministers attending World Economic Forum annual meeting this year in Davos; others included Economics Minister Joseph Deiss and President Samuel Schmid.

Both Israeli and Palestinian representatives present at the working breakfast on Saturday morning signalled their willingness to forge ahead with peace talks.

One of the participants, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, hailed the election of the new president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, as a “great success because he acts on what he thinks and says”.

“This is the first step not only towards a political but also a economic democracy,” said Peres.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to meet Abbas in February.

Calmy-Rey stressed that Switzerland was concerned primarily with the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories.

“Switzerland will push to ensure that access to the Gaza Strip is respected where the situation is extremely difficult with regard to the population’s poverty,” said Calmy-Rey.

Geneva Accord

The minister was confident that the Geneva Accord - a plan for the division of Jerusalem and the creation of a Palestinian state - was still a model that could be relevant.

This was a sentiment echoed in Davos by the Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of the initiators of the document.

“The Geneva Accord will exist as long as there is hope for peace,” said Rabbo.

He called on Israel to stop building its security barrier in the West Bank because of the threat it posed to a future Palestinian state.

“We cannot build a Palestinian future inside walls; the cantonisation of Palestinian areas is not like the cantonisation of Switzerland,” said Rabbo.

The Swiss foreign minister also stressed that only when the economic situation of the Palestinian population improved could peace have a real chance.

Movers and shakers

For his part, Swiss President Samuel Schmid said he was impressed with the turnout by political and economic movers and shakers at this year’s WEF meeting.

However, Schmid dismissed a proposal made by French President Jacques Chirac during the opening of the event.

Chirac had called for countries which preserve banking secrecy to be charged for income lost by other nations through tax evasion.

The Swiss president said that such plans were “unrealistic”.

Schmid managed to fit in meetings with a number of world leaders in Davos.

These included German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, South African President Thabo Mbeki, Brasilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan.

Other Swiss ministers present were Economics Minister Joseph Deiss, Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin and Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz.

Deiss hosted a meeting of members of the World Trade Organization, who agreed to step up efforts to liberalise global commerce under a new treaty.

"This was the kick-start to the political process necessary to put negotiations on the right track," said Deiss.

Trade ministers from 30 countries discussed bringing the new treaty into force by 2006.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Palestinians and Israelis are ready to talk peace.

This was expressed on the sidelines of this year's WEF meeting.

Among the participants was Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, and the Israeli deputy prime minister, Shimon Peres.

Other participants included Palestinian officials.

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