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September 10, 2000

UK remains opposed to Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, says Hain

Foreign Office Minister, Peter Hain, is adamant that both East and West Jerusalem is occupied territory and that the British government remains opposed to dividing the Holy City.

"We donít accept Israeli government sovereignty over Jerusalem," he said in an interview with Ahmed Versi, Editor of The Muslim News. Under the United Nations, the city was "always a corpus separatuí so thatís the position we will always recognise," he insisted.

Hain said that he did not want to go into detail of how a settlement can be reached, but a General Assembly resolution in 1949 called for the city and its surrounding towns to be put under an international regime, administered by the UN, without mentioning the issue of sovereignty.

"It should be an agreement that they (the Palestinians and Israelis) can both feel comfortable with, thatíll involve compromise on both sides. There isnít any prospect of an agreement in which one side takes everything," he said.

The Foreign Office Minister, who has recently returned to London after holding two intensive days of talks with many key figures in the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, remained adamant a settlement could still be found, but said that "tough decision have to be made, creative solutions sought and difficult compromises reached."

When challenged that the British Government and a British commission acknowledged in the 1930s that some parts of Jerusalem claimed to be sacred to the Jewish community including the Wailing Wall was Islamic waqf (property), Hain suggested that there could be no solution by referring to the past.

"I know thereís all sorts of history but we can be killed by history and we can be trapped by history and in that case, we wonít have an agreement," he said.

Hain declined to comment on threatens made by President Clinton to prevent Yasser Arafat declaring a Palestinian state on September 13, but said that a unilateral declaration of independence would be the "worst outcome compared with an agreement."

A self-declared Palestinian state would have a "fractious relationship of hostility and tension with Israel, its borders wonít be clear, its security arrangements wonít be clear," he warned, while also doubting its economy would be viable.

"The peace process is very delicately balanced on the edge of either a breakthrough or collapse," the Minister responsible for the Middle East said, while calling for efforts to be redoubled to find a solution.

"The clock is ticking and if this opportunity is not grasped I donít think it will come around again for a very long time and possibly ever," he warned.

The full text of the interview will appear in this month's issue of The Muslim News.

For further information contact us on 020 7608 2822 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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