The Chair of the Socialist International Middle East Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, SI Vice-President Massimo D’Alema and SI Secretary General, Luis Ayala, held talks in Brussels, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv from 22 to 25 March 2004 following a decision taken by the SI Council meeting in Madrid last month, on the seriously deteriorating situation in the Middle East and to explore practical ways to renew the peace process.
The first discussions, in an intensive programme of talks, were held in Brussels on 22 March with EU Secretary General and High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, and with European Commission President Romano Prodi on the European Union’s role and contribution to the advancement of peace among Israelis and Palestinians.
In Jerusalem, on 23 March, the SI representatives met with Labour Party Chair and Leader of the opposition, Shimon Peres, with whom they discussed the worsening situation in the region and the latest grave developments including the assassination of Sheikh Yassin, leader of Hamas, the day before. Talks were also held that day with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Ehud Almert, who outlined the government’s position in regard to the announced withdrawal from Gaza, other government actions and their views on relations with the Palestinians.
On 24 March, a meeting was held in Jerusalem with Yossi Beilin, leader of Yachad, the new Social Democratic Israel Party, and one of the authors of the Geneva Initiative. That day the SI representatives went to Ramallah, where they met with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, the Prime Minister of the PA, Ahmed Qurei, and other members of the PA cabinet and Fatah leadership, with whom they held exchanges on the current serious situation in the region and heard their views in regard to the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
On 25 March, as a result of the earlier discussions with both Israelis and Palestinians, a tripartite meeting was held with the participation of the leader of the Israeli opposition, Shimon Peres, the Palestinian Minister for Negotiations of the Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat, and the SI representatives, in which the current deteriorating situation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was examined and initiatives to urgently move forward the process for peace were discussed.