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Monday, 24 August, 2009

Ahead of The Elders' visit to the Middle East, Gro Brundtland blogs about her long-standing engagement in the region and of her belief in dialogue as a precursor to peace.

I am looking forward to visiting the Middle East again. Since my young student days and then my first visits to the region in the 1970s, long before the Oslo Accords when I was Prime Minister of Norway, I have followed events in the region closely and it is clear that the current efforts to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians represent a very important opportunity.

We are not coming to get involved in the negotiations – that is not our role. While we are very supportive of the efforts, we are coming primarily to hear from ordinary people on all sides. We want to speak with people about daily realities of life and what they hope for the future. This is important in overcoming fear and mistrust on both sides.

Despite the many setbacks of the past 15 years and since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin which I feel was the real blow to hope for peace, we should remember that what happened in 1993 was essential for where we are today, in the sense that the recognition of the state of Israel and the recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative is fundamental to the two-state solution that is now being debated.

I share Henrique’s disappointment that we cannot visit Gaza this time and we will still try to speak to people there. We also hope to speak to representatives of Hamas. As Elders, independent of any government, I believe it is necessary to speak to all those involved in this conflict. It doesn’t mean that one is not critical towards one or other of the parties involved. But you have to speak to all of them.

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