Middle East: Annan says release of Mitchell Commission report offers hope
Arriving at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Mr. Annan said he was "quite hopeful" about today's release of the Mitchell Commission report -- so named for the former United States Senator who had led the fact-finding mission. "I think there are elements in it which should allow the parties to step back and take steps for a ceasefire, confidence-building measures, and, eventually, return to the table."
"I hope this opportunity will not be wasted, and that they [the parties] will seize it as a moment to step back from the precipice and try and end the violence in the region," the Secretary-General told the press in the wake of the worst clashes to hit the region in months. "It's a real tragedy," he added.
The Secretary-General also said he expected widespread support for the report, including from the European Union and the United States. Noting that there had had been much activity behind the scenes, he expressed hope that "sooner or later -- sooner rather than later -- we are going to see some results after all these efforts."
Asked about the recent Arab Group decision to sever ties with Israel, Mr. Annan said that while "it is not going to make a settlement easier," he was encouraged that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had indicated that he would stay engaged as one of the two countries that had made peace with Israel. He also expressed hope that the other -- Jordan -- would also remain involved.
The report of fact finding was requested by last year's summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Mr. Annan observed that the meeting's participants "have stayed in touch throughout this crisis, trying to find a way of pushing the process forward."
For his part, the Secretary-General noted that he had been actively engaged in recent days. "I have been very busy on the phone with Washington, with leaders in the region and with my own people on the ground," he said. "We will continue that effort."