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Israel and the occupied territories: ICRC president urges fresh dialogue

04-07-2013 News Release 13/122

Geneva/Jerusalem (ICRC) – The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, says more substantial dialogue with Israel is needed to improve the lives of Palestinians suffering the effects of decades of occupation.

Speaking at the end of a four-day trip to Israel and the occupied territories, his first to the area since he took up his post a year ago, Mr Maurer said it was important that a new balance be struck between security and humanitarian concerns.

"A critical issue to consider is what steps are needed to restore and improve the living conditions of Palestinians," said the ICRC president. During his trip Mr Maurer visited Gaza, met families of detainees held in Israeli jails and saw how the West Bank barrier isolates Palestinian villages.

Mr Maurer also met senior political leaders, including Israeli President Simon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The meetings were frank and useful, said Mr Maurer. However, he added that after 46 years of occupation by Israel it was time to develop a meaningful discussion with the Israeli government on the detrimental impact of certain occupation policies.

"It's vital that the ICRC be able to have real dialogue at every level," said Mr Maurer. "Only then can legitimate security concerns be properly weighed against the profound impact of occupation on the Palestinian community."

"The ICRC remains concerned by the humanitarian consequences on the Palestinian population of certain Israeli decisions – such as the routing of the West Bank barrier and the establishment of settlements, including in East Jerusalem – that are not compatible with Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law," he added.

"We are convinced that greater compliance with international humanitarian law would significantly reduce human suffering on both sides," said Mr Maurer. "It would be in the best interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and pave the way for a peaceful resolution of their conflict."

For further information, please contact:
Sean Maguire, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 52 601 9150
Ran Goldstein, ICRC Tel Aviv, tel: +972 52 275 7517
Nadia Dibsy, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 52 601 9148
David-Pierre Marquet, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 02 or +41 79 536 92 48


Photos

ICRC president Peter Maurer visits a physical rehabilitation centre in Gaza to hear the challenges amputees and other patients face in Gaza's difficult living conditions. 

ICRC president Peter Maurer visits a physical rehabilitation centre in Gaza to hear the challenges amputees and other patients face in Gaza's difficult living conditions.
© ICRC

The ICRC president meets Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah. 

The ICRC president meets Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah.
© ICRC

ICRC president Peter Maurer meets Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. 

ICRC president Peter Maurer meets Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
© ICRC