Meeting today in Cairo, Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak agreed that for any Middle East security agreement to endure, it must be embedded in a political process.
According to a spokesman for Mr. Annan, the Secretary-General and President Mubarak reached this conclusion after discussing prospects for a Middle East ceasefire in the wake of the security agreement concluded on Tuesday night in the presence of United States Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet. They also reviewed current efforts to encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to implement the recommendations put forward by a committee headed by former US Senator George Mitchell.
Speaking to reporters following his meeting with President Mubarak, Mr. Annan said that now that the ceasefire was being consolidated, "there should be an effort to move on to the diplomatic process in order to ensure that the ceasefire holds for the longer term."
Underscoring the need to put an end to the tragedy, the Secretary-General said, "once the ceasefire has been accepted and consolidated, I think it is only normal that we move on with the implementation of the full Mitchell recommendations which the parties have both accepted."
Asked by a reporter about the plight of the Palestinian people "still suffering under siege," Mr. Annan noted that "the purpose of the efforts we are making is in the end to ensure that the siege would also be lifted."
"As we make progress in the work that we are doing, I would hope to see a better situation for the Palestinian people," he added. "I know they are suffering, I know the pain, and I think that is why we are all here."
The Secretary-General then met with Egypt's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Maher. In a press briefing following their discussions, he emphasized the imperative of pursuing the path of peace. "I think once you've made a strategic choice for peace, you need to stay the course and to stick with it, and at the same time find a way of dealing with the terrorists."
"If you allow the terrorist to dictate the pace of talks - to determine when you continue your peace discussions - then you are not going to move very far," he observed, expressing hope that the parties would "stay the course and not allow a bomb here or there to disturb the process."
Later in the day, the Secretary-General left Cairo for Damascus. During the remainder of the week he is also scheduled to visit Amman, Beirut, Tel Aviv and Ramallah.