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FM Livni: Middle Eastern Nations Share a Common Threat

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed the view on Thursday that all nations share a common threat - that of extremist religious ideology.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 5/31/2007, 11:45 PM

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed the view on Thursday that all the nations of the Middle East share a common threat - that of extremist religious ideology.

Speaking before a special gathering of leading female politicians in Vienna, Minister Livni said: "There is a better understanding in the world today that, regarding the Middle Eastern conflict, it is not a zero-sum game. States of the region today share common threats: extremist and religious ideology seeking to undermine stability in the region. It is in all of our interests to prevent them from transforming the conflict from a national to a religious one."

Livni did not comment on the fact that the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement already took control of the Palestinian Authority in a sweeping electoral victory last year. However, she did say that "stopping terrorism is not just an Israeli interest. Stopping the violence can and must serve the interests of us all. Whoever thinks that the Hamas poses a problem only to Israel is mistaken. Hamas represents a dangerous and religious ideology that constitutes a regional threat that also harms the Palestinians."

"Whoever thinks that the Hamas poses a problem only to Israel is mistaken." -- FM Tzipi Livni

Minister Livni claimed that the conference, entitled "Women Leaders Networking for Peace and Security in the Middle East," "sharpened the understanding in our region of the difference between the important value of religious freedom and the illegitimate trend towards using religion in order to fight freedom in the countries of the region."

Regarding the Arab League's diplomatic initiative in Arab-Israel relations, the Foreign Minister said, "The correct thing is to immediately begin a process of normalization of relations with Israel and not to wait. Normalization now will help in promoting the diplomatic process."

The women's leadership conference, arranged and initiated by Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, also included among its attendees US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the wife of the Iraqi President, the Bahraini President of the United Nations General Assembly Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa, Palestinian Authority representative Hanan Ashrawi, as well as representatives from the European Union and other Middle Eastern states.

Livni held a working meeting with Secretary Rice during the conference. The two leaders discussed the deteriorating situation in Gaza, as well as the time table for Arab-Israeli diplomatic talks in coming weeks. Livni also met with the PA representative Ashrawi and the Austrian chancellor, as well as other political leaders.

At the close of her trip to Austria, Foreign Minister Livni visited Vienna's central synagogue and met with leaders of the Austrian Jewish community.