NATO chief to visit Israel over Gaza violence
NATO Secretary-General will visit Israel at the weekend and discuss the Gaza violence, a NATO spokesman said.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will visit Israel at the weekend and discuss the Gaza violence, a NATO spokesman said on Friday.
De Hoop Scheffer will meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak during the visit on Sunday and Monday, NATO said.
The NATO spokesman said the visit, which will follow a Jan. 9-11 stop in Jordan, was scheduled long before the current Isareli offensive on Gaza although the subject was expected to be discussed.
Israel pushed ahead with its two-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip on Friday, killing at least 21, defying a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire
De Hoop Scheffer said on Saturday the 26-nation Western military alliance could help stabilise the Middle East if a broad peace deal was eventually reached, but that remained a distant prospect.
The NATO chief told Dutch radio that deployment of a NATO peace force would be conditional on Israel and Arab states requesting an international military presence to implement the peace. "Unfortunately we're a long way from that," he said.
De Hoop Scheffer said Israel must take steps to achieve peace, calling its settlements in occupied Palestinian territories "indefensible". But he also said Hamas must stop rocket fire.
The NATO chief's Middle East trip will take place under the auspices of the alliance's Mediterranean Dialogue, which was launched in 2004 with the aim of enhancing regional security.
The forum currently involves seven non-NATO countries: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
Reuters Last Mod: 10 Ocak 2009, 09:25