Finnish FM: Israeli occupation is 'apartheid'

AFP , Wednesday 26 Oct 2011

Finland's Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja describes occupation of Palestinian lands as apartheid and stresses Israel's failure to move forward with two-state solution

Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories is tantamount to apartheid, Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said Wednesday, warning time was running out for a two-state solution.

"If you are occupying areas inhabited by... Palestinians who do not have the same rights as the Israelis in Israel, that is apartheid and that is not sustainable," he told reporters.

"I think that the majority in Israel has also realised this but they have been unable to provide a leadership that (can) move forward on the two-state solution," he added.

Tuomioja also warned that time was "running out for the two-state solution."

"There is growing frustration among the Palestinians that a two-state solution is not going to come," he said, adding: "the outlook is not very positive."

On Wednesday, envoys from the Middle East Quartet -- the European Union, United States, Russia and United Nations -- were to hold separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jerusalemm in a bid to revive peace talks which broke down in autumn 2010 in a dispute over settlement building.

The Palestinians say that face-to-face talks with Israel will not resume as long as Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank continues.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly offered to freeze government settlement construction, but the Palestinians say that represents a small portion of overall settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and that anything short of a full freeze is unacceptable.

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