JERUSALEM PATRIARCH CALLS FOR TOTAL ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL

PARIS, Apr. 23, 01 (CWNews.com) - The Latin-rite Patriarch of Jerusalem said on Friday that Israel should completely withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Patriarch Michel Sabbah, a native Palestinian, said the only solution to the ongoing violence would be a recognition of Palestinian sovereignty over all the land seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East War, including Arab East Jerusalem, a prospect which observers admit is high unlikely.

"The cause is Israeli occupation of Palestinian soil. Palestinian violence, Israeli violence in response, are simply two effects of this cause," Patriarch Sabbah told a news conference in Paris while on a visit to France. "It has to be said that there is an Israeli military occupation of Palestinian soil which must stop. It is as simple as that. When it stops, we can have peace," he said.

He admitted that Israel does have a right to exist within its original borders, and warned that the country is threatening its long-term existence the longer it goes without a solution to the Palestinian problem.

He said that an end to occupation had to include East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed in a move that is not recognized internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as capital of a future state. Patriarch Sabbah said he was confident a solution to the status of the city that was acceptable to both sides could be found as long as Israel recognized Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem. "That must be the starting point," he said.