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Switzerland reaffirms support for Geneva Accord

Calmy-Rey used the conference to reaffirm her support for the Geneva Accord

(Keystone)

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has reiterated her country's support for an unofficial Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

The so-called Geneva Accord, which was launched last December, has received logistical and financial support from Switzerland.

“With the Geneva Accord... civil society has been able to prove that there are partners for peace on both sides [of the conflict],” said Calmy-Rey during a one-day conference in Bern on peace efforts in the Middle East.

“The accord also demonstrates that the widely-held view that nobody believes any longer in the possibility of a peaceful settlement is false," she added.

The Geneva Accord outlines a plan for the division of Jerusalem and the creation of a Palestinian state, and also covers other contentious issues such as the return of Palestinian refugees and the removal of most Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

It was initially signed by the former Israeli cabinet minister, Yossi Beilin, and his Palestinian counterpart, Yasser Abed Rabbo.

Challenges

Monday's conference, organised by the foreign ministry, was devoted to discussing the challenges of finding peaceful solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The meeting brought together experts in the field, journalists as well as politicians past and present from the Middle East, the United States and Europe.

Calmy-Rey did not mince her words when addressing both sides involved in the ongoing conflict.

She said that the Palestinian Authority had not done enough to protect human rights, and that Israel had violated international law by building a security barrier in the West Bank.

She added that until a lasting peace was achieved, both societies would be shackled economically and would remain unable to contain increasing extremism.

“Security is not only a matter of safety, but also of rule of law and democracy,” said Calmy-Rey.

Pessimism

Journalist and Middle East expert Ulrich Tilgner gave a sober appraisal of the state of the conflict.

“I don’t see peace between Israelis and Palestinians - at least not in the short term,” he said. “The chance for peace is dwindling.”

He added that any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would require the full support of the international community.

“The Geneva Accord is well worth a try... but a breakthrough will require a major act of will by all involved,” said Tilgner.

The conference comes two days ahead of a meeting at the Swiss Mission to the European Union in Brussels to promote the Geneva Accord and assess what progress has been made in the nine months since it was formally launched.

Representatives from around 40 countries are expected to attend the meeting.

Calmy-Rey said 23 nations had already expressed their support for the peace initiative.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Geneva Accord outlines a plan for the division of Jerusalem and the creation of a Palestinian state.
It also covers the return of Palestinian refugees and the removal of most Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
The initiative does not have the official backing of either the Israeli government or the Palestinian Authority.

end of infobox

In brief

A conference devoted to discussing peace efforts in the Middle East was held on Monday in the Swiss capital, Bern.

Organised by the Swiss foreign ministry, the meeting brought together experts in the field as well as politicians past and present from the Middle East, the United States and Europe.

end of infobox


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