S Africa to host UN Palestine talks

South Africa will host a two-day UN conference in support of Palestinian rights beginning on Tuesday, hoping that it will help advance the idea of a negotiated Middle East peace.

    President Thabo Mbeki will open the UN conference in Cape Town

    "We hope this conference will put the message across that no military solution is possible and that the only way forward is through a negotiated settlement," said Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad on Monday.

    "We want this conference to help people understand what is going on in Palestine," he said.

    South Africa is a strong supporter of Palestinian rights and has repeatedly called for an end to Israeli violence in the territories.

    It went before the International Court of Justice, the United Nations highest legal body, in February to argue against Israel's right to build the West Bank barrier, backing the Palestinians in their case.

    The Palestinian Authority's negotiations minister Saib Uraiqat is due to attend the conference in Cape Town but no official Israeli or US representation is expected.

    Washington's former consul general in Jerusalem, Edward Abington, is scheduled to speak as is Yossi Katz, a former member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

    South African President Thabo Mbeki is to deliver an address at the opening of the conference that South Africa hopes will also renew calls for implementing the road map for peace.

    "We need to mobilise the international community to get the roadmap implemented"

    Aziz Pahad,
    South African Deputy Foreign Minister

    "We need to mobilise the international community to get the road map implemented," said Pahad.

    He added that South Africa would reiterate its concern at the conference about Israel's construction of the West Bank barrier.

    "The building of this wall is one of the most dangerous schemes brought about," he said.

    "It will do nothing to solve the problems in the region."

    A series of discussions will then be held between experts and members of the various Palestinian, Israeli and international groups.



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