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Tutu: Palestine must not be made of Bantustans

Nov. 6, 2011 11:40 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 7, 2011 1:20 P.M.)
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (Reuters) -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Saturday called for a Palestinian state that is contiguous and not made of Bantustans, at an international gathering in Cape Town.

South Africa's peace icon delivered the opening address at the 'Russell Tribunal on Palestine' - a gathering of activists seeking a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on international law.

Addressing delegates, Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for speaking out against white minority rule in South Africa, called for the creation of a Palestinian state.

But, he said, it should not resemble the territories designated for black Africans during South Africa's apartheid years.

"I, and I am certain all of us here have always said, they grant to Israel, they want to see Israel recognized and existing as an independent sovereign state with boundaries that are recognized and guaranteed by the international community.

"But equally, equally, we say, that is what we wish for Palestine, that it will be an independent viable state, contiguous, not something that is even less viable than the Bantustans that we had," he told the audience.

The Russell Tribunal, which has already held sessions in London and Barcelona, describes itself as a public awareness group that aims to draw attention to the plight of the Palestinian people.

Organizers say delegates at the third session in Cape Town will discuss whether Israel's policies towards the Palestinian people are in breach of the prohibition on apartheid under international law.

Speaking on behalf of a Palestinian NGO, Ingrid Jaradat Gassner said the Palestinian people all wanted self-determination, regardless of whether they lived in the West Bank and Gaza or whether they lived in Israel.

"Palestinians define themselves as one people, no matter where they currently live, including the refugees, those in the 67 occupied Palestinian territory and the citizens of Israel.

"They are one people who have the right to return and self-determination and who are represented. They have one legitimate representative, the PLO and they have been recognized as such by the United Nations," she told the gathering.

Major powers and the United Nations insist the only durable solution to the Middle East conflict is a negotiated settlement leading to creation of a Palestinian state. Both Israel and the PLO say they are committed to that elusive goal.

The Russell Tribunal is made up of activists, legal experts and Nobel Peace Laureates, but has no legal status.

It was initially set up by Lord Bertrand Russell in the 1960s to investigate war crimes committed during the Vietnam War.
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