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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Israeli FM discusses release of Fateh prisoners

At a press conference with Australian FM Downer, Israeli Foreign minister Tzippi Livni was asked about prisoner release issues and the return of Gilad Shalit.

Q (translated from Hebrew): Madam Foreign Minister, do you support in principle the Prime Minister's declared intention to release 250 Palestinian prisoners? And, in a related issue, the PM is under enormous pressure, from the abductors, from the public, from the media, etc., to make progress in the case of Shalit. Are you in favor of relinquishing some of Israel's
preconditions in order to make this deal happen?

FM Livni: Regarding your first question, the release of Palestinian prisoners from the Fatah who "have no blood on their hands", the answer is yes. The Prime Minister consulted with me before he went to Sharm a-Sheikh, and this distinction - only Fatah detainees, only those who "have no blood on their hands" - also conveys a message to the Palestinians. The clear distinction between moderates and extremists, between Hamas and Fatah, has practical implications for the way the Israeli government relates to Abu Mazen as president as well as our working relations with the new Palestinian government, including what we are willing to do to strengthen the moderates who wish to live in peace, who want to advance the two-state process and who are prepared to reject terrorism. Fatah is the group that currently represents these principles and, therefore, the answer to your question is yes.

Obviously, we are not going to conduct the negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit in the media. Gilad's voice is still echoing in our ears. I don't think there is a person in Israel, certainly not a minister, who isn't walking around today with Gilad's voice settled in his heart. But, there is no doubt that the Hamas is, in the cruelest way possible, exploiting the pain of the Shalit family and of the Israeli people in an attempt to impose its agenda and to try to torpedo the meeting in Sharm. They believe that their strategy is beginning to weaken him and it is important, after hearing Gilad, that the responsibility for his health and welfare is placed squarely on the Hamas. The government of Israel will continue to act to bring him home. As for the conditions, that is, of course, not a subject for public discourse.

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