ILRS Statement on the Middle East
3 August 1997, Espoo, Finland

We who have gathered in Espoo in Finland for the Congress of the International League of Religious Socialists express our deep concern for the present status of the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The recent suicide attack in Jerusalem, which we strongly condemn, is a tragic example of the vulnerability of the process and illustrates also its failure to produce sufficient concrete results for both peoples.

The mutual trust that was starting to develop after the signing of the Oslo accords, both on the level of leadership and individuals, is now being quickly eroded with potentially seriously negative consequences for the future. Direct negotiations have broken down and the faith in the implementation of the Oslo accords is disappearing. The economical and social conditions for the Palestinians have not improved.

We are convinced that the Israeli settlement policy is a main obstacle to the success of the peace process. The establishment of new settlements and bypass roads, which is against international law, creates diminutive and isolated Palestinian areas that in effect makes a future Palestinian state an territorial impossibility.

As religious believers of different faiths we deplore the role religious conviction is playing in the conflict by aggravating tensions and fuelling hatred between people. For us, in the Middle East as well as in Europe and in other parts of the world, tolerance, respect and peace-making lie in the core of any religion.

We would like to see Jerusalem as an example of co-existence and cooperation between religious institutions and religious followers with a common concern and responsibility for the holy city. The city should serve as capital for both Israel and Palestine.

The efforts for a peaceful solution to the conflict must be intensified. The principle of exchanging land for peace must be reiterated. No party will gain security at the expense of the other, it can only be achieved as a joint enterprise.

The world community must take its full responsibility for the peace process so that already achieved results are not being jeopardised and so that the parties will be committed to negotiating for a comprehensive, just and peaceful solution. No single party should be allowed to unilaterally block the road to peace.


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