Parliamentarians meet Red Cross, stress soldier's release should not be tied to peace process.
By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT, LONDON
A group of senior British parliamentarians met with representatives of the International Red Cross (IRC) in London last week to discuss the plight of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit and stressed that his release should not be dependent on the peace process.
The meeting forms part of an initiative which will feature similar meetings between parliamentarians and the IRC around Europe. Leading the delegation was Conservative Party MP Alistair Burt, who launched the initiative at the European Friends of Israel conference in Paris last month.
Also at the meeting was James Arbuthnot MP, chair of Conservative Friends of Israel; Andrew Gwynne MP, chair of Labor Friends of Israel and Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith.
"We appreciated the opportunity to meet with the IRC director and welcome the assurance we were given that Gilad Schalit's case remains a very high priority for them," Burt said. "We understand the careful boundaries in which they must work but share the deep frustration that more has not yet been achieved."
Burt noted that Gilad Schalit has been kept in captivity for over 900 days and that the meeting was designed to express concern and show their determination to pressure the Red Cross to gain visiting rights. He also noted the concern of the MPs that the human rights of Schalit and his family were continuing to be ignored.
"In violation of international law, Hamas has not allowed the Red Cross to visit Gilad and ascertain his state of health," Gwynne said. "The anxiety that his parents and family must be going through is unimaginable. I urge the Red Cross to do all that it can to gain access to Gilad and report back on his treatment and condition."
The MPs added that Schalit's fate should not be dependent on the peace process.
"The Red Cross is respected worldwide for its neutrality and the importance of giving access to people detained in conflict. It is vital Gilad has access to its services immediately," Beith said.
The Red Cross told the MPs that Schalit's case was a high priority for them. They said they were continuing to press Hamas to grant visiting rights but were continuing to be frustrated.
The Red Cross officials said they were aware that this was a significant violation of international law.
The Red Cross also asked the MPs to note the statement of the IRC head in Israel, Pierre Wettach, which said "The issue is continuously raised at high-level meetings with Hamas. We are pursuing dialogue with all those concerned, as we believe that is essential for achieving progress."
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