OIC a key partner in Middle East peace bid, Annan tells Islamic forum

OIC a key partner in Middle East peace bid, Annan tells Islamic forum

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is an indispensable partner of the United Nations in its efforts to achieve a just and durable peace in the Middle East, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in a message to a meeting of OIC foreign ministers in Bamako, Mali.

In the message, which was to be delivered on his behalf by Ibrahima Fall, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Annan deplored the recent Middle East violence that resulted in the deaths of both Palestinians and Israelis. "I reaffirm the sacredness of all human life, whether Palestinian or Israeli," he said. "As I have said many times before, and repeated during my visit to the region eight days ago, violence and terror do not lead to peace."

The Secretary-General said progress towards peace in the Middle East would not come about unless it was made within a political process. "I welcome the fact that the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority have accepted the conclusions of the report by the fact-finding committee [led by former US Senator George Mitchell]. It is now time for the parties to implement the recommendations quickly and effectively, as an appropriate basis for a renewal of the peace process."

Touching upon the current crisis regarding Iraq, Mr. Annan said he shared the OIC's concern over the continuing suffering of the Iraqi people. "Like you, I hope the sanctions against this country will be lifted soon," he said. "That is why I'm urging Iraqi authorities to reconsider their position and to accept to cooperate with the international community. I am ready to continue the dialogue with the Iraqi Government which began in February to try to find a way out of the current impasse."

The Secretary-General also expressed his appreciation for the OIC's efforts to help the people of Afghanistan who, he said, have been "suffering for far too long" from the effects of a fratricidal war. He welcomed the OIC's call at its recent summit in Doha for all parties to the Afghan conflict to stop fighting and cooperate in setting up an inclusive government. However, peace will not be achieved in Afghanistan without help from neighbouring nations, Mr. Annan said, sending an urgent plea - particularly to Iran and Pakistan - for more collaboration on their part in bringing peace to the country.

In the message, the Secretary-General also called on OIC members to support the global fight against AIDS, stressing the importance of the General Assembly's special session on HIV/AIDS, currently being held in New York.