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 Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 12:05 GMT
Analysis: London's Palestinian initiative
Afif Safieh, the Palestinian representative in London
The Palestinians' London envoy came to the talks
BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason

A conference organised by the British Government on the reform of the Palestinian Authority has gone ahead in London despite an Israeli ban on Palestinian delegates travelling there.

The UN envoy at the conference said it was a show of support for the Palestinian people.

The British Government is making a big show of the conference, even reduced as it is to a video-phone conversation with several Palestinian ministers in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

One Palestinian minister, Nabil Sha'ath, has fallen by the wayside already; Israeli restrictions prevented him travelling from Gaza to Ramallah.

Israel imposed the ban after a double suicide bombing killed 23 Israelis and foreign workers in Tel Aviv last week.

Not ideal

Mr Straw conceded that a phone conference was no substitute for a face-to-face meeting.

He said he hoped and prayed that the technical arrangements would work.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Mr Straw is hoping for the best
At the same time, the row over the conference has allowed the British Government to make its point even more strongly: that it places importance on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It hopes Arab opinion will be impressed at a time when the UK is so closely associated with the United States campaign against Iraq.

The government did manage to secure fairly high-level representation from the Bush administration, which has been decidedly luke-warm about the conference.

Support

The US Middle East envoy, William Burns, speaking on his way in, said merely that any discussion that contributed to Middle East peace was a good idea.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana
Solana: Israel 'not wise' to block travel
The United Nations envoy, Terje Larsen, said it was a show of support for the Palestinian people.

And the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said it was not very wise of the Israelis to stop Palestinians coming to talk about reform.

In the end, he said, there would be two states and they needed democratic institutions.


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14 Jan 03 | Politics
08 Jan 03 | Politics
05 Jan 03 | Middle East
06 Jan 03 | Middle East
20 Dec 02 | Middle East
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