Annan welcomes possibility of Middle East talks

Annan welcomes possibility of Middle East talks

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Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said he supported the efforts of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to set up a high-level meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian sides in an effort to end the current wave of violence in the Middle East.

Responding to questions from the press during his official visit to Norway, the Secretary-General said that he welcomed Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's statement today that he was prepared to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for truce talks in Berlin.

"I have always maintained that protagonists need to talk. It is when people are dying and the killing is going on that one has to talk," Mr. Annan said. "And so any attempt to bring the parties to the table is something that I support."

Meanwhile at UN Headquarters in New York, the Security Council continued this afternoon its open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. The discussion, which had been requested by the Islamic Group of nations, began on Monday with statements by representatives of some 40 countries.

During yesterday's session, Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, Acting Chairman of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the Committee was worried by the dramatic escalation of tensions in and around East Jerusalem and in areas under full Palestinian control, adding that it was strongly opposed to any actions resulting in the loss of life - Israeli or Palestinian.

The two sides needed the help of the international community, Mr. Rodriguez Parilla said. The recommendations of the report by former US Senator George Mitchell should be implemented in their entirety, and negotiations on security, as well as the interim and permanent status issues, should be revived as a matter of urgency.

Only once there was a sovereign Palestinian State, with guaranteed and safe borders, would there be peace, he added, as the core of the problem was the continuing illegal occupation by Israel of the Palestinian territory. The Chairman called upon Israel to respect the principles of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the provisions of all relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.