I Brought Peace to Northern Ireland. Now Let Me End the Slaughter in the Middle East; EXCLUSIVE: JOHN HUME'S TALKS PLEDGE

The Mirror (London, England), March 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

I Brought Peace to Northern Ireland. Now Let Me End the Slaughter in the Middle East; EXCLUSIVE: JOHN HUME'S TALKS PLEDGE


Byline: JILLY BEATTIE

PEACE crusader John Hume is ready to help find a solution to the Middle East nightmare.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner feels he must wait to be asked by both sides, but is sure that the tactics used to end the North's Troubles can work again.

He said: "I will go there and do everything humanly possibly to help them start the process to peace.

"I would only agree to go if I could be able to meet both sides and get them talking together. That would be the proviso. Nothing more, nothing less. The answer to this conflict, like any conflict, is dialogue between all parties."

What Hume is not keen to publicise is that he has already been asked to help start negotiations in the Middle East.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Perez told him he was desperately needed to start talks six years ago - but months later Perez was ousted from power by right-winger Binyamin Netanyahu.

Hume said: "It came to nothing. But even back then I believed I could be of some use.

"I think it is simply because I have worked and lived with conflict resolution for so many years and I have seen much of my work come to fruition.

"There is still a way to go - but we have been largely successful and the people here are living in peace.

"The solution to conflict is basically quite simple. There are three principles: respect of people's differences, setting in place institutions which respect those differences and the healing process which is reached by working together on common interests.

"When people are so caught up in pain and grief that they cannot see tomorrow, never mind look forward to peace, it is very difficult.

"It is the duty of the politicians to make a stand and say enough is enough.

"And it can be done. People told me there would never be peace in Northern Ireland and they were wrong.

"People now say there can never be peace in the Middle East and I believe they are wrong. We only have to look at the best example of conflict resolution to understand that it really can be done.

"The European Union is the perfect example. When I was first elected to the European Parliament in 1979 I realised how far we had come.

"Just 30 years earlier the place has been in bloody chaos, 35 million people had died. But in 1979 I walked across a bridge from Strasbourg in France to Kehl in Germany and meditated as Europe stood together and celebrated its diverse culture.

"That was when I knew for sure that we needed to take the right road in Northern Ireland, the only road.

"In the same way I believe the Middle East conflict can be brought to an end. It will take a couple of generations to ease the pain of loss and grief but I believe it can be done. And rather than one man standing alone as a negotiator, I believe the EU has a duty to stop sending armies into places of conflict, and instead send in the philosophy of conflict resolution.

Hume, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998, said the EU needed a peace commissioner backed by a team of experts.

He added: "And they would go into the countries, armed not with guns and tanks, but armed instead with the solution of dialogue, of experience in their own countries, of ways of getting sides to come together to talk.

"Our own peace process only found its feet when all the sides got involved in the dialogue - the representatives of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Britain.

"Only then did we start to see movement in the right direction because all the people who had a vested interest in peace were involved in finding it.

"And as in Northern Ireland where we have started to celebrate each other's differences while living together, so the people of the Middle East could be on the same road.

"They talk about divided territories in the Middle East, but really that is not true. …

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