Nobel peace laureate Martti Ahtisaari says the United States and other powers can no longer sit back and watch Israel and Palestinians destroy each other if the goal is to achieve Middle East peace.
The former Finnish president told the AP in an interview before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony Wednesday that failing to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will lead to instability across the Middle East.
He said countries in the region "are one way or another politically tied together" so problems in Palestinian areas will fuel problems in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.
The 71-year-old peace mediator is receiving this year's peace prize for his three decades of mediation efforts around the globe.
"Peace is a question of will," Ahtisaari said, according to a copy of his acceptance speech. "All conflicts can be settled, and there are no excuses for allowing them to become eternal."
"I hope that the new President of the United States, who will be sworn in next month, will give high priority to the Middle East conflict during his first year in office," he said.
Ahtisaari said that Washington's partners in the Quartet - the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - must also be seriously committed "so that a solution can be found to the crises stretching from Israel and Palestine to Iraq and Iran."
Ahtisaari in Oslo with his wife, Norwegian royal family (photo: AP)
"If we want to achieve lasting results, we must look at the whole region," said Ahtisaari.
"The tensions and wars in the region have been going on for so long that many have come to believe that the Middle East knot can never be untied," Ahtisaari said. "I do not share this belief."
"All crises, including the one in the Middle East, can be resolved," he said after receiving a Nobel diploma and medal to applause from about 1,000 guests at a ceremony attended by Norway's King Harald and Queen Sonja.