22 July 2002
Speakers Call for Sustained International Efforts for Middle East Peace As International Media Seminar Concludes in Copenhagen
(Received from a UN Information Officer.)
COPENHAGEN, 18 July -- A two-day international media seminar on the question of peace in the Middle East concluded on 18 July, in Copenhagen, Denmark with speakers calling for a stronger international role in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians to meaningful negotiations.
Terje Roed-Larsen, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process, repeated the determination of the international community to remain fully engaged in finding a negotiated settlement to the Middle East conflict. With the framework announced early this week at the New York meeting of the diplomatic Quartet, there was a clear blueprint for moving forward.
There were two fundamental principles and one unshakable idea that lay at the heart of this new framework, he said. The two principles were related to the belief of the international community in the right of Israel to exist free from terror, and to their belief in the right of the Palestinians to independence. The idea that motivated the international community, was related to the belief that these two principles could be reconciled in one common vision, one common future.
Reiterating his condemnation of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, Mr. Roed-Larsen said the real terrorist infrastructure was not only a physical one. It was also a mental one. "The infrastructure of the mind could not be destroyed without opening the gates of hope for the Palestinians," he said. There was a clear need for addressing several related issues, including political, security, violence, including terrorism, and economic deprivation, in a parallel manner. The Palestinians, who faced a humanitarian crisis due to occupation and Israeli military action, needed massive international assistance. But what they needed most was peace.
The closing session was also addressed by Miguel Moratinos, European Union Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process. Echoing the sentiment expressed by Mr. Roed-Larsen, Mr. Moratinos said if all sides could display firm political will, peace in the Middle East could become a reality. He recalled that the Israelis and Palestinians had come so close to a peace agreement at Taba, Egypt in April 2001. It was a shame that what had been achieved after so much pain was so easily destroyed.
Referring to the recent meeting of the diplomatic Quartet he attended early in the week in New York, Mr. Moratinos said there was now in place a firm framework for action. It was no longer just a vision. Describing the active diplomacy pursued by the European Union, Mr. Moratinos noted that there was a broad understanding among the European Union members on how the shape of a future Palestinian State and peace in the Middle East could be achieved. This included a two-State solution outlined by United Nations Security Council resolutions, a return to pre-1967 borders and final timetable. Other principles shared by the European Union members include an end of violence, including terrorism, Palestinian reforms and convening an international peace conference.
Mr. Moratinos expressed confidence that elections in the occupied Palestinian territories would be held in early January 2003. The diplomatic Quartet had announced a three-year timetable to complete the process of setting up an independent Palestinian State. He called upon the media representatives to do everything possible to bring the two peoples closer, not divide them any further.
Earlier in the afternoon, several speakers discussed the role of media as partner for peace in the Middle East. The speakers were: Gideon Levy, Correspondent, Ha'aretz (Israel); Samar Daoud, Correspondent, Al Quds newspaper (Jerusalem), Antonio Ferrari, Senior Correspondent, Corriere della Sera, Italy; and Torben Krogh, Chairman, International Programme for the Development of Communications and Chairman, Danish National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific Organization (UNESCO).
Mr. Levy said he regretted that the media in Israel frequently either under-reported or did not report at all the conditions prevailing in the occupied Palestinian territory. "Nine out 10 Israeli readers don't know and don't care about what is happening just half hour away from their border," he said.
Ms. Daoud, discussing the coverage of the Middle East conflict by the Western media, noted that the Palestinians and Israelis were often treated as equals. "In reality, however, this conflict was, on the one hand, between an occupied party, the Palestinians, fighting for their freedom, independence and the application of international law, and on the other hand, the occupying party, Israel, which is denying freedom, independence and the application of international law to the Palestinians."
Ms. Amy Wilentz, describing her experience as a journalist in New York, said some of her friends often did not want to talk about what was happening in the Middle East. "But those who care and are interested no longer want to know anything about the Palestinians, and they have for the most part effectively blocked out most information," she said. One big reason for this, was suicide bombs. "I think if this conference has come to any conclusion at all, it is that the suicide bomb is now the single greatest obstacle to peace in the Middle East," she said.
Mr. Ferraro in his remarks described the challenges faced by reporters who covered the events in the Middle East. People on both sides were intolerant and cared little for journalistic freedom. "There is a clear tendency to force you to choose one side and to become blind towards the other," he said. This was hurting the image of the media and raising questions about its bias.
Mr. Krogh underscored the profound influence the media played in shaping the perception of the conflict in the public domain. Citing his experience at UNESCO, he said the media was an essential component in the marketplace of ideas. UNESCO was committed to supporting the "development and expansion" of Palestinian media.
To create an exchange of dialogue, UNESCO funded Palestinian television programmes as well as Palestinian university communication projects, he added. However, the Intifada had impaired UNESCO's ability to function in its usual capacity. Providing a public forum for ideas and concerns was a necessary element to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, in his closing remarks recalled the basic objective of the Department in organizing the international seminar which was to send a message to both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as to the people of the world, that the path to peace could be reached only through dialogue and mutual understanding. The desire for peace was shared by the majority of people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. The international media could help them come closer and renew a dialogue, he noted.
Before formally closing the meeting, he appealed to the members of the media for broader partnership with the United Nations and its Department of Public Information (DPI) in promoting peace in the Middle East. "The media and UNDPI have the same values and uphold the same principles. Our work must be accurate, transparent, fair and balanced. When it comes to the Middle East, these shared values make a great basis for partnership between the media and the DPI," he said. Together, they could make a difference.
Participants in the seminar, organized by DPI in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, included over 40 present and former policy-makers from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, United Nations officials, international experts and media representatives. Members of the international diplomatic corps and international media based in Copenhagen also attended.
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