Annan welcomes statements by Palestinian and Israeli leaders, urges talks
The Secretary-General's reaction came after Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said he had ordered his security services to implement a ceasefire, a move that was followed by Israel deciding to halt its offensive military operations.
"The Secretary-General hopes that these constructive steps will pave the way for the resumption of security cooperation between the two sides and that it will contribute to an early and productive meeting between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and President Arafat," a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement.
"In the Secretary-General's view, the highest priority must be given to ending the current cycle of violence and resuming the peace process," the statement said.
Earlier today, similar views were voiced by Terje Roed- Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Mr. Larsen welcomed the moves by Palestinian and Israeli authorities, and said the developments were a sign that the intensive diplomatic efforts by the European Union, the United States, the Russian Federation and the United Nations were starting to bear fruit.
The envoy also called for today's words to be followed by actions by both sides, including a restart of security cooperation efforts between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with the resumption of political talks as the next step, including those planned to take place between President Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres.