Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Thursday that the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has helped fuel unrest in Egypt and elsewhere in the Mideast.
During a visit to Paris, Fayyad said protesters' complaints stem not only from internal problems in their own societies, but also from "a frustration, a desperation because of the failure of efforts to solve the Palestinian problem."
Fayyad spoke during a news conference with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon. Later Thursday, Fayyad is scheduled to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy and to attend dinner talks on a follow up conference to a 2007 donor event in Paris that raised $7.7 billion in Palestinian aid pledges.
Fillon said France would be willing to host a new conference in June on the condition it includes a "political dimension, beyond financial and economic aid," — a major step on the road to the creation of a Palestinian state in 2011, he added.
The Palestinian government in the West Bank said Tuesday it will hold local council elections as soon as possible. The Palestinian Authority has not held elections since 2006, leaving the president and members of parliament in office after their elected terms ended.
The call to hold elections came as a surprise move reflecting fears that massive anti-government protests in Egypt could inspire unrest here, too. The last week and a half have seen continuing clashes between anti-government protesters calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and backers of his regime.
Egyptian security services have tried to stem the wave of unrest, to little avail. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said on Tuesday she had unconfirmed reports that up to 300 people may have been killed and over 3,000 injured in the unrest that has engulfed Egypt.
Mubarak has been a major player in the Mideast peace process. He is considered Israel's bridge to the Arab world, and has also been a mediator in talks with the Palestinians. Some observers fear the flux in Egypt could damage efforts to create a Palestinian state.
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