The Elders

Martti Ahtisaari, former President of FinlandDear friends,

Egyptians in Cairo, Alexandria and other parts of the country began to vote on a new constitution on Saturday. The rest of the country votes tomorrow and with violence between rival political groups still being reported, The Elders have appealed for calm.

Egypt's democratic transition is vital – not only for the Egyptian people, but for the region. Only by resolving their differences peacefully can they protect the achievements they have fought for in their struggle against autocratic rule.

Our thoughts are also with the people of Syria, where tens of thousands have lost their lives in the conflict, and millions more are displaced. As winter sets in, we urge the international community, and all those who can help, to ensure that those in need have food, shelter and access to medical care. But this is not enough. More needs to be done to stop the violence and find a solution that secures a decent future for all Syrians.

Israel and Palestine: a step towards peace

Two months ago, my fellow Elders told reporters in Jerusalem that Israelis and Palestinians are moving further away from a two-state solution, and towards a 'one-state outcome'. Israeli settlements are now expanding to the point where a viable, contiguous Palestinian state – and a lasting peace – will be almost impossible to achieve.

Recently, however, something positive happened. Governments of the world voted resoundingly in favour of Palestine becoming an 'observer state' at the UN General Assembly last month: an important reminder that the international community considers the two-state solution the only viable long-term solution to the conflict. The Elders supported this peaceful and proactive move by the Palestinian Authority to break the diplomatic stalemate.

I am also encouraged to see governments taking a stronger stand against Israeli settlements. Europe has long condemned settlement expansion; yet at the same time has inadvertently supported it through trade. The Elders spoke out about this inconsistency, urging European governments to reconcile their trade policies with their rhetoric.

As I have said before, all conflicts can be resolved. It is a question of political will. International pressure has been growing on Israel to halt settlement expansion. The international community has to see to it that the parties start serious negotiations which might lead finally to a peaceful solution of the Israel Palestine conflict.

Best wishes,

Martti Ahtisaari

Martti Ahtisaari

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