CNN has established a tradition of covering the Nobel Prize presentations live and on Wednesday afternoon it showed the award of this year's Peace Prize to Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland and a veteran United Nations mediator. In a discussion with CNN's Jonathan Mann, Ahtisaari focussed on the need for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute to be regarded as a priority, saying that its resolution is “crucial to the development of the Middle East and the Muslim world.” He chided the West for “pretending, year after year, to do something to help the Middle East situation, without getting results.” Ahtisaari's Peace Prize is mainly a recognition of his mediation in Africa, Asia and the Balkans. Perhaps now is the time for the UN to ask him to turn his attention to the Middle East. That would not be welcomed by Israel which has always insisted that the United States should take the lead in negotiations with the Palestinians - despite, or perhaps because of, Washington's apparent inability to make any solid progress. Ahtisaari rightly put the Israeli-Palestinian problem in the wider context of the whole Middle East region. In the past America would not have liked that approach but perhaps with Barack Obama in the White House things will be different. “All conflicts can be settled,“ said Martti Ahtisaari on CNN, “there is no excuse for letting them become eternal.”


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