Middle East: need for parties to talk is critical, Annan says

20 April 2001

Reacting to ongoing insecurity in the Middle East, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today stressed the importance of recognizing that the issues of violence, economic deprivation and the political process were interlinked and had to be tackled flexibly.

Speaking to reporters as he entered United Nations Headquarters in New York this morning, the Secretary-General at the same time reiterated the critical need for the parties to resume their negotiations "now that the killing is going on -- now that we are living this tragedy."

Concerning his meeting yesterday with Permanent Representatives from the Arab Group, Mr. Annan said they had stressed that the Security Council "should take some action, should take initiatives that will help galvanize the parties to recognize that they have to work to stop the violence and begin to improve the situation and engage in the dialogue."

"We had a very good conversation," Mr. Annan said, referring to his meeting with the Arab representatives. "They really came to think together as to what the UN, in the form of the Security Council and the Secretary-General, can do to help the process."

Meanwhile, Peter Hansen, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres today in Tel Aviv.

Their meetings followed an incident in Gaza yesterday when Mr. Hansen was stopped for over one hour at an Israeli check point.

Afterwards, Mr. Roed-Larsen said he had been assured by Foreign Minister Peres that "the policy of the Government of Israel was to facilitate the work of the United Nations, and humanitarian workers in general."

According to a UN spokesman, an "open dialogue" on the issue will continue. Foreign Minister Peres said he had designated a high-level Foreign Ministry official to work with UNRWA in the days ahead.

Mr. Roed-Larsen also met last night with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Their meeting was described as "extremely positive," the spokesman said.

 

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