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Non-aligned states urge release of Palestinians

May 27, 2011 12:07 A.M. (Updated: May 29, 2011 9:35 A.M.)
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AFP) -- The 118-nation Non-Aligned Movement on Friday demanded Israel release a "substantial number" of Palestinian political prisoners as a "positive step" toward peace.

At the end of a ministerial meeting in Indonesia, the movement reiterated its support for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, a position it shares with the United States but which is rejected by Israel.

In a joint statement, the ministers "reaffirmed the longstanding international consensus recognizing the Palestinian people as a nation and recognizing their inalienable right to self-determination and independence in their state of Palestine, with east Jerusalem as its capital."

They called on Israel to release Palestinian "political prisoners" including 300 under the age of 18 and 10 members of the Palestinian legislative council.

"The issue is a central one and a practical and effective benchmark in the construction of a just peace in the region," the statement said.

"The ministers stressed that the release of a substantial number of Palestinian prisoners ... could constitute a positive step towards fostering the climate of mutual trust necessary for the resumption of permanent status negotiations."

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened the meeting on Wednesday and warned of new strategic rivalries between states as the world deals with complex challenges including terrorism and climate change.

But in their declaration the foreign ministers referred only to the Palestinian issue and a long-standing call for nuclear disarmament.

"The ministers declare their firm commitment to work for convening a high-level international conference to identify ways and means of eliminating nuclear weapons at the earliest possible date," they said.

The declaration made no mention of specific events in member states such as Libya, Yemen or Bahrain, countries which are in the grip of violent turmoil as unpopular regimes try to cling to power in the face of unrest.

On the sidelines of the meeting on the resort island of Bali, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi told the official MENA news agency that he had met his Iranian counterpart to discuss re-opening diplomatic ties.

He said Egypt's next parliament, which will be elected in September, would review the establishment of diplomatic relations with Iran.

Iran severed diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1980 in protest at Cairo's peace treaty with Israel signed a year earlier, and the two states maintain only interests sections in each other's capitals.

But they have signalled they plan to mend ties in the wake of the Feb. 11 fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's regime.

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