12 Jul 2013 11:19

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 (Bernama) -- President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, said that more substantial dialogue with Israel is needed to improve the lives of Palestinians, who have been suffering the effects of decades of occupation.

Speaking at the end of a four-day trip to Israel and the occupied territories, which was his first to the area since he took up his post a year ago, he said that it was important that a new balance be struck between security and humanitarian concerns.

"A critical issue to consider is what steps are needed to restore and improve the living conditions of Palestinians," said the ICRC president in a statement issued by the Geneva-based organisation.

During his trip Maurer who visited Gaza met with families of detainees held in Israeli jails and saw how the West Bank barrier isolates the Palestinian villages. He also met Israeli President Simon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

While describing the meeting as frank and useful, Maurer noted that it was time to develop a meaningful discussion with the Israeli government on the detrimental impact of certain occupation policies after 46 years of Israeli occupation.

"It's vital that the ICRC be able to have real dialogue at every level," said Maurer, adding that only then can legitimate security concerns be properly weighed against the profound impact of occupation on the Palestinian community.

He said that the ICRC remained concerned by the humanitarian consequences on the Palestinian population of certain Israeli decisions that were not compatible with Israel’s obligations under the international humanitarian law.

Some of the decisions made by Israel include the routing of the West Bank barrier and the establishment of settlements, including in East Jerusalem.

"We are convinced that greater compliance with international humanitarian law would significantly reduce human suffering on both sides," said Maurer, noting that it would be in the best interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and pave the way for a peaceful resolution of their conflict.