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Last Saturday I attended the commemoration of those who died in the battles in North Africa of the Second World War. It took place at the beautiful military cemetery at El Alamein, the site of the decisive battle in October 1942 which was a turing point of the whole war.
The fallen of many countries lie there, and some 600 people attended, among them veterans of the battle and foreign VIPs. As is traditional, the prayers were for all those who have fallen in all wars.
I am well aware that the story did not end with the end of that war. And that the lives of those living in the areas affected by those battles are still at risk from the explosives which remain buried in the ground. People are still dying and being injured in the local communities.
Over many years my country and many others, including Germany and Italy which were also the main combatants, have provided assistance in practical and technical ways to solve the problem. The United Nations continues to lead an assistance programme. But the efforts have not achieved their desired result of improving the economic and social conditions of the local communities to the degree that we had hoped.That is our main objective, of which dealing with the threat of explosives is only a part.
As I told a television interview at El Alamein, there is a chance now with the new Egypt to re-launch co-operation and overcome the problems and disagreements which have limited the impact of assistance in the past.
A new start is needed.