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The depth of the conflict and of the divisions in the Middle East; the scale of the devastation in Gaza; the impact of the Separation Wall and of the Israeli occupation, and the settlements in the west Bank; along with the trauma caused to the residents of Sderot and other Israeli towns by rocket attacks, are all evidence of the enormity of the problems facing those who live in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
In September 2006 I visited Israel and the West Bank. Due to a tight schedule I was unable to visit the Gaza strip.
Following the Israeli assault on the Gaza strip in December and January I decided that it was time to go back and to see for myself the extent of the damage and to take the opportunity to meet as many people as I could and gather as much information as possible.
In April myself and three colleagues, Ted Howell, Harry Thompson and Richard McAuley spent four days in Israel, the Gaza strip and the West Bank.
We met a huge number of NGOs, Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations, women's groups, community organisations, bankers, the private sector, university heads, health staff, including trauma counsellors, and all of the main Palestinian political parties and a Kadima member of the Israeli Parliament and Palestinian refugees.
We were warmly received by everyone we met and they openly and honestly outlined their assessment of the current situation.
I want to thank everyone who assisted us and who was willing to meet and outline their views.
It is clear that many are hopeful that the new US Administration and the appointment of Senator George Mitchell creates a new opportunity to make progress toward a peace settlement.
It is obvious that the political conditions for ongoing violence and poverty and instability still dominate the situation.
These must be tackled effectively if a peace settlement is to have any potential for success.
It was also clear from the scores of Israeli and Palestinian citizens that the Sinn Féin delegation met that there is a deep desire for peace.
This desire must be turned into reality.
I believe that dialogue is key to this.
So too is the role of the international community.
Another start must be made in the Middle East. That includes a huge international effort to begin the work of reconstruction in the Gaza strip and the West Bank.
The international community also has a duty to create the political conditions in which a real dialogue can happen.
So far it has behaved in a shameful way by failing to effectively and persistently pursue the building of a peace process capable of delivering a political settlement.
That must change.
The Sinn Féin peace strategy helped create the conditions for the Irish peace process which has transformed political conditions in Ireland.
While no two conflicts are the same there are nonetheless broad principles which can be helpful in all conflict resolution processes.
Sinn Féin, within our limited resources, is willing to offer our experience to others if it can help.
Is mise Gerry Adams MP MLA Sinn Fein President June 2009
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