08 April 2009


Adams urges talks on Gaza visit

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams urged Israelis and Palestinians to hold direct talks as he visited Gaza on Wednesday.

Israeli officials are unhappy about Mr Adams' visit as he has not ruled out meeting officials from Hamas.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, is listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US and EU.

Mr Adams toured parts of northern Gaza devastated by war that Israel waged in the Palestinian territory this year.

He said: "The obligation is that what happened here doesn't happen again,"
"And that means there needs to be negotiations and that means that the leadership in Israel and the leadership in the Palestinian territories need to be involved in a direct dialogue.

"The international community, particularly the US, need to be actively encouraging that."

Mr Adams met John Ging, director of operations in Gaza for the UN Refugee and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees.

He also visited an ice cream factory which was destroyed during the war and spoke with its owner.

Before Mr Adams set off for the Middle East Israeli officials said they would not meet him because he would not rule out meeting Palestinian militants.

They had threatened not to allow him to enter Gaza.

The Sinn Féin leader, who last visited the Middle East in 2006, said he regretted the Israeli government's refusal to meet him.

"As the leader of a party which was censored and demonised and whose members were killed, I see dialogue between all sides as key to building a successful peace process," he said.

"So I will meet with all sides and urge all sides to end all armed actions and to engage in meaningful dialogue.

"I believe there should be a complete cessation of all hostilities and freedom of movement for everyone."

Mr Adams said there were "similarities" between the Northern Ireland peace process and the Middle East, but "there are also significant differences".

"But it is clear that finding solutions will require leadership on both sides, and a willingness to take risks, initiatives, and compromise," he said.