Dialogue key to ending conflict - Adams

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has urged the US to adopt a similar approach to that used in the Irish peace process in efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Speaking after arriving in Jerusalem for a two-day visit to the Middle East, Mr Adams said the role of the international community and the United Nations was crucial, as was the American government's as a strong ally of Israel.

"In the Irish peace process the United States played a positive and encouraging role, recognising all of the democratic mandates of the participants, supporting dialogue and dealing with everyone on the basis of equality," he said.

"I would strongly urge a similar approach in respect of any efforts to rebuild the peace process here."

The West Belfast MP said a comprehensive and inclusive settlement was clearly required, rooted in the rights of the people of Palestine and Israel to live in mutual respect, security and peaceful co-existence and cooperation.

Mr Adams later travelled to the West Bank town of Ramallah, where he met members of the governing Hamas organisation.

Defying Israeli objections, Mr Adams met a Hamas legislator in the West Bank and advised Israel and the Palestinians to solve their problems through negotiations.

On the second day of his visit to the Middle East, Mr Adams also laid a wreath at the tomb of the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat.

He also travelled to the compound where the Israelis had once besieged President Arafat.

Mr Adams was invited to the region by the current Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli officials refused to meet Mr Adams because of his intention to meet Hamas members.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr Adams said the aim of his visit was "to encourage the search for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".

"The Anglo-Irish conflict was once labelled as intractable. Talk of peace and of peace processes was dismissed as nonsense, as fantasy, but we proved the pessimists and cynics wrong," he said.

The Belfast West MP said Israelis and Palestinians had more to gain from peace than from continuing conflict.

Earlier this year, the US and EU controversially froze aid to the Palestinian National Authority because Hamas refused to recognise Israel and disarm.

Mr Adams urged Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate a two-state solution to their conflict. He said Israel must talk to the Palestinian leadership.

"War is not the only option," he said. "Building a political alternative, constructing a peace process which can deal with the causes of conflict, and which can provide stability, justice and democracy, is an option also and one which would have the support of right thinking people world wide."

"I think it is right that the occupation of the Palestinian territories should end, and I think it's right that there should be dialogue and an end to the conflict," he said.

Israel must "understand that the strategic interest of Israel and the prosperity and the security and freedom of Israel is interlocked into them upholding the rights and the freedom and the security of the Palestinian people," he said.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News