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Alex Maskey to meet Saeb Erekhat on visit to Palestine

15 October, 2004

South Belfast Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey will today meet Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekhat as part of a week long trip to Palestine.

Speaking today Mr Maskey said:

" During the past two-weeks the Israeli military have killed more than 120 Palestinians. There is growing despair among the Palestinians about the violence, and a desire that their case be properly heard on the international stage.

"I have been attending meetings with a variety of people during this visit, which has seen me in discussion with non-governmental officers, academics, professionals and representatives of the Palestinian Authority.

"I have also been taking part in a seminar on the peace process in Ireland and the situation here in Palestine.

"This is a chronic situation. The people I have been speaking to are bordering on despair, and they seem to have no idea about how to move forward.

"Palestinians cannot move around the area because of the violence. There is a terrible anger here at what they feel is a terrible imbalance in coverage of events in the international arena. The Palestinians feel that their side of the story is not being properly reflected in the media.

"I am looking forward to meeting with Saeb Erekhat today and I will be there very much in listening mode. I am not here to pass on advice, but will return from this visit and reflect on what Palestinians are saying.

"I will then reflect that back to my colleagues, to the Sinn Fein leadership, and I will talk to the Palestinian ambassador to Ireland to see what can be said or what can be done.

"There are currently 25 countries based and represented in Ramallah including the Japanese who have been doing infrastructural work, and the Germans involved in development work.

"However, that work is being destroyed by the Israeli bombardment. Infrastructure is being demolished and destroyed. This week has been an eye-opener coming here to see how people have been pushed to the depths of despair at what is happening.

"I think it is also a reminder of how far the peace process back home has travelled, but also about how it can unravel."ENDS

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