At a solemn meeting commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian people, United Nations officials today renewed their call for peace talks in the troubled Middle East region.
"This year's observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People takes place at a critical time for the Middle East and the world," said Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "Escalating violence and significant loss of life, mostly among Palestinians, but also Israelis, have increased mutual mistrust and animosity."
Stressing that the parties must pursue peace, Mr. Annan said both sides should realize that violence and the excessive use of force were the enemies of progress. "I share the hopes expressed by President Bush and US Secretary of State Powell that the Israeli occupation will soon end, and that two States - Israel and Palestine - will before long live side by side in peace with mutual respect and security," he said.
Also addressing participants, the President of the UN Security Council, Ambassador Patricia Durrant of Jamaica, agreed that in the current climate of violence, all concerned must engage in a concerted effort to check the hostilities and stop the suffering. The parties should unequivocally demonstrate the will to implement agreements reached to date, she added, pledging the Council's readiness to assist in this effort.
The Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Papa Louis Fall, welcomed the meeting between Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres, and the fact that the need to create an independent Palestinian State had been publicly acknowledged by the United States and the European Union. At the same time, he stressed that the UN must remain seized of the question of Palestine until the matter had been resolved in all its aspects.
Echoing this view, General Assembly President Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea, said the UN had a "special responsibility regarding the question of Palestine, until it is effectively resolved" comprehensively. "It is incumbent on all of us to see to it that this objective is accomplished," he said.
In a message to the gathering, Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority, called for a more active intervention by the UN in securing the rights of the Palestinian people - a task which he said would require, among other steps ending the Israeli occupation and establishing an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. The message was delivered on President Arafat's behalf by the Permanent Observer for Palestine to the UN, Nasser Al-Kidwa.