As part of our initiatives aimed at supporting civil society activities bringing together Israelis and Palestinians working for peace, the S&D Group organised a public seminar in the European Parliament today, in partnership with the Parents' Circle-Families Forum, a remarkable civil society organisation of Israeli and Palestinian bereaved parents who lost loved ones in the conflict but decided to work together for reconciliation rather than revenge.

S&D MEP and vice-president for foreign affairs Victor Boştinaru said:

"The current unrest in the Middle East and the growing tensions in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank should tell us that we cannot afford the luxury of being pessimists and give up on this process! We have to bring back hope to people, which is the only way to halt the vicious circle of violence.

"We, the EU, united, have the responsibility and the duty to act as a major political player, to use our leverage and to keep this process alive. Considering our enhanced financial and humanitarian investment in this region, but also the heavy weight of our past mistakes, our contribution to a solution is vital.

"I believe the time has come to come up with a new strategy, together with our regional partners, one that does not involve only leaders, but also people-to-people measures. There will be no peace without reconciliation and without confidence-building between the two peoples. I think we have potential here, I trust that the majority on both sides do want peace and are ready for concessions.

"I would like to thank all members of the Parents' Circle for doing what they are doing, it takes a lot of courage and resources to keep moving forward after living through such personal dramas. Your commitment and action are priceless!"

S&D MEP Julie Ward added:

"Sadly we are seeing intolerable violence on the rise, political stalemate between Israel and Palestine, and the Middle East in upheaval. In this climate of grave uncertainty, bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who faced the most tragic loss of a child or a close family member have chosen to take steps for peace together, inspiring hope for us all and shining a light on the path we must all follow.

"Decision-makers must understand that true peace can only come about through people-to-people reconciliation and intercultural exchange. The bereaved Parents' Circle sets the blueprint for that true and honest exchange, using culture, art and design to enable real grassroots participation and I am proud to work with them.

"It is time for women to step up to the table and play a dominant part in the political process for peace. Too often, women and children are the ultimate victims of conflict, without ever being consulted on the decision to fight. The Taking Steps For Peace campaign enables women to raise their voices and become actors for change. If peace must come through mutual recognition and striving for justice, that must include gender equality.

"Parents' Circle sets a model of reconciliation and women's empowerment that we can all learn from, and we must use these lessons in conflicts around the world. EU decision makers must support the initiative and spread the word."

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