Mediterranean Formentor Forum opens in Majorca, middle east tops agendaFormer Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres held talks with a Palestinian negotiator in Majorca yesterday and pledged he would not stop working for peace in the Middle East. Peres was among six Labour ministers who resigned from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's national unity coalition this week in a dispute over funding for Jewish settlements. Peres was at the Formentor Forum yesterday, an annual seminar on political and social issues held at a luxury Formentor Hotel in a scenic and remote corner of the island. Participants include politicians, business executives, academics and journalists. Peres could be seen talking in the hotel garden to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat; the speaker of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, Avraham Burg; and Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio. Peres, Erekat and Burg later had lunch together, an Israeli source said. I shall not stop for a moment working for peace. In this conference there are some Arabs and Palestinians. We shall talk with them very seriously and try to see what can be done for the future, Peres told reporters. He said it was hard to judge whether the fall of the coalition reduced the chances for peace in the Middle East. A great deal depends also on the energies of the Quartet, the investment of the United States, the priority given to Iraq. Let's not forget that the whole situation is overshadowed by the very serious issue of Iraq, he said. The Quartet -- made up of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia -- has been trying to mediate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but much of Washington's diplomatic focus has recently been on Iraq which it accuses of developing weapons of mass destruction. Peres said it was not yet clear whether there would be a narrow government or early elections in Israel. The difference is not tremendously great because normally we have to have elections by October 2003, he said. Now it depends very much on what will be public opinion in Israel. I think basically people understand that in order to overcome the difficult economic situation, we have to find a political solution, he said. The real problem about a political solution is the partner -- whether there will be a credible partner to do so. And that, we shall try to see in the next few weeks, he said. In Israel, cabinet minister Danny Naveh said Sharon would begin formal talks on Sunday with prospective partners in a narrow government following the collapse of his broad coalition. Ultranationalists who oppose trading occupied land for peace and support unlimited Jewish settlement on territory Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war are among those Sharon will be courting. Balearic President Francesc Antich told delegates the Mediterranean is still not a balanced world, but he said that the best way to achieve peace and justice is by dialogue. The Balearic President said that the Formentor Forum provides an excellent opportunity for bridges to be built and the future of the Mediterranean to be discussed. He said that the Mediterranean as a region is going through a tense time, but I would like to give more to this conference that just a welcome speech as we all feel deeply implicated in the Mediterranean problems we are discussing this weekend.
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