[Sinn Fein]

22nd December 2002

McLaughlin calls on Israelis to lift ban on Yasser Arafat travelling to Bethlehem

Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has called on the Israeli government to lift the ban on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat attending Christmas Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and end its occupation of the city. Mr. McLaughlin said:

This is the second year that the Israeli authorities have prevented Yasser Arafat from travelling the twelve miles from Ramallah to Bethlehem to attend Christmas Mass. Over the last twelve months they have repeatedly targeted the Palestinian leader and his Presidential compound has been destroyed after months of sustained bombing. This is wrong and should stop.

Ariel Sharon has effectively torn up the 1993 Oslo Accord that sought to secure a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.  And the violence which has resulted from the pursuance of such strategy is making the task of building a sustainable peace in the Middle East all the more difficult.

The suicide attacks, the killing of civilians, the invasion by Israel of Palestinian territory and the deliberate targeting for assassination of Palestinian leaders should end.  

What is required is genuine dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian people and this must be based on equality and justice. The ban on Yasser Arafat travelling to Bethlehem should be ended immediately.

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