San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arias tells Middle East to bid farewell to arms

During his recent tour of the Middle East, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias advised the Palestinian Authority to copy Costa Rica and abolish its army, while suggesting both Israel and Palestine should meet at the negotiating table to find a peaceful solution to their differences.

During the second day of his visit to Israel, on Nov. 27, Arias met with former Israeli president Yitzhak Navon, who served from 1978 to 1983, to discuss the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Navon said: “As it´s a message of peace, it is important for the people who live here and for the leaders of the region to listen to a man of experience who has won the Nobel Prize for peace. He has some wise advice and can make a great moral contribution to the peace.”

Arias also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to whom he explained the 1980s peace process in Central America.

The following day Arias visited Palestine and its Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. It was the first time a Costa Rican head-of-state has ever visited the country.

In a meeting that lasted more than an hour at the Bethlehem Presidential Palace, Arias suggested that Palestine, as a small and poor country that has lost so many wars and will never be able to triumph over the Israeli state, should abolish its army, just as Costa Rica did 60 years ago.

Peaceful negotiations, according to Arias, should focus on Jerusalem, the fronts, the refugees, the settlements and security.

In response, the Palestinian prime minister welcomed Arias and thanked him for bringing a message of peace to the Middle East and for highlighting the importance of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

While Fayyad expressed a willingness to return to the negotiating table, he insisted that in order to achieve concrete results, Israel should comply with international law, stop the building of settlements and respect Palestinian territory.

The president´s Middle Eastern tour also included a visit to the site where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and the Wailing Wall.

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