Celso Amorim, Brazil’s Foreign minister, said in Brasília that greater participation of the countries of the IBSA, the group that includes India, Brazil and South Africa, in the peace talks between Israel and Palestine is urgent.
Amorim made the statement after a meeting between the foreign ministers of the IBSA and the minister of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Riad Malki.
According to him, the idea of the group contributing to negotiations arose during the visit of ANP president Mahmoud Abbas to Brazil in November last year. “But the initiative has become more urgent due to the bumps in the process in Palestine,” said Amorim, during a press conference, at the Itamaraty, the Foreign ministry headquarters.
Among these “bumps”, he mentioned the Israeli decision to allow the construction of 1,600 homes in Eastern Jerusalem, a territory that the Palestinians consider occupied. Another is the “re-edition of a military order” by Israel “which would make the daily life of Palestinians more difficult”.
Malki spoke to the IBSA ministers about order 1650 which, according to him, obliges all Palestinians residing in the West Bank to carry a special permit while in the territory, issued by the Israeli military command in the territory, or else they may be deported to another country.
“All of us, the 2.5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank, are at risk of being deported to another country within 72 hours, unless we have authorization to stay,” said Malki, pointing out that nobody has the authorization. “We are all running the risk of deportation for replacement by [Israeli] settlers. This shows that Israel is not interested in peace,” he added.
Amorim said that, due to these facts, “there has not been any positive evolution” in the peace process. “This all worries us. This meeting of foreign ministers is the start of greater engagement of the countries of the IBSA in the peace process in the Middle East,” said the Brazilian minister.
According to him, the countries of the IBSA support the establishment of a viable Palestinian State with borders as before 1967, when Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in the Six Day War, according to the plan approved by the Arab League in 2002, in Lebanon. Apart from that, Amorim stated that IBSA condemns the construction of Israeli settlements in the areas considered occupied.
The question of settlements has paralyzed negotiations which, early last month, were about to be restarted with the mediation of the United States. To Amorim, the IBSA may help the so-called “Quartet of the Middle East” with new ideas.
The Quartet includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the UN. “We also have good relations with Israel, and that is why we believe we may contribute with new ideas,” he said.
Malki added that the countries of the IBSA “must invest” if they want peace to take place, pressing especially for the freezing of settlements before negotiations may start again. “I know how Brazil is engaged in the matter,” said the foreign minister of Palestine, mentioning the visit that president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, in March.
In a joint statement, the ministers of the IBSA called the government of Israel to freeze settlements, including constructions that are the result of “natural growth” of Jerusalem. Organic growth of the city is used by the Israelis as justification for authorization of new works in the East of the city.
The foreign ministers also called for Israel to reduce the restrictions to the circulation of people and goods in the West Bank and in Gaza Strip, to avoid the worsening of the humanitarian situation. Apart from that, they declared they have “great concerns” regarding Military Order 1650.
The ministers also showed their support to peace talks between Israel, Lebanon and Syria and greater participation of the international community in the peace process in the region, including developing countries that have good relations everywhere.