Secretary-General Kofi Annan today strongly deplored the latest clashes in the Middle East - which have left 20 Palestinians and two Israelis dead - and urged the parties to return to the negotiating table, according to a United Nations spokesman.
"The Secretary-General is deeply disturbed that, despite the recent ceasefire agreement, there has been yet another round of violence and retaliation in the Middle East," Fred Eckhard, spokesman for Mr. Annan, said in a statement. "He strongly deplores this, and the heavy loss of life."
The spokesman said the recent fighting heightens the need for talks. "The casualties on both sides underline the urgent need to return to the negotiating table, so as to address the basic political issues," he said.
Through his spokesman, the Secretary-General urged all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to make every effort to observe the ceasefire and implement the recent agreement reached by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.
The agreement, concluded on 26 September following a meeting between the two men, called for full security cooperation and maximum efforts to sustain the ceasefire, among other provisions.