CAPE TOWN (AFP) – Two South African winners of the Nobel Peace Prize urged Israel and the Palestinians on Friday to negotiate peace, with former archbishop Desmond Tutu comparing the regional crisis to apartheid.
Tutu was speaking alongside fellow laureate and former president FW de Klerk at a news conference on this year’s annual summit of peace prize winners to be held in Cape Town in October.
The feisty cleric, who won the prize in 1984 and has in the past compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the racist apartheid system, said the latest flare-up in the Middle East crisis was the result of a void in global leadership.
“It is not a Muslim or Jewish crisis. It is a human rights crisis with roots to what amounts to an apartheid system of land ownership and control,” he said.
“Yes, we condemn those who fan the flames, who launch the missiles against Israel, but missiles do not justify Israel’s excessive response,” he said.
“As an old man, my appeal to my fellow laureates and peacemakers is to step into the leadership void, to make your voices heard from all corners of the globe, to advocate or pressure your government and institutions to cajole, to persuade,” Tutu said.
The upcoming summit will commemorate the life of former South African president Nelson Mandela, who shared the 1993 prize with De Klerk for the peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy, organisers said.
Speaking on the day Mandela would have turned 96, Tutu said helping to overcome what he called “the greatest peace challenge of our times” would be a fitting tribute to Mandela.
Mandela died on December 5 last year but his birthday is commemorated internationally as Mandela Day.
“For the Israelis and Palestinians, the lesson to be learnt from South Africa is that there is no dispute which cannot be resolved by meaningful negotiation if there is the will on both sides to negotiate,” said De Klerk, who will co-host the Nobel summit with Tutu.
The theme of this year’s conference, from October 13-15, is “peace”, according to Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille.
“We often forget that to the rest of the world peaceful transition is seen as a miracle and that it remains a great source of inspiration to other nations,” she said.
The summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners has been held annually in cities around the world since 1999.