Global perspective Human stories

In Oslo, Annan says Middle East violence makes peace efforts more urgent

In Oslo, Annan says Middle East violence makes peace efforts more urgent

The recent escalation of violence in the Middle East has given greater urgency to peace efforts for the troubled region, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in the Norwegian capital of Oslo where he attended Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Mr. Annan said he had hoped to use the occasion of the Nobel Prize centennial events to discuss ways of helping the Middle East peace process with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, the winners of the 1994 Prize with Yitzhak Rabin, then Prime Minister of Israel. Mr. Annan expressed regret that the two leaders could not join the Oslo ceremonies. “The terrible violence of the past week means that their efforts are even more urgently needed on the ground,” he added.

Responding to questions, the Secretary-General underscored the need for a collective international effort to bring the parties "back from the brink." In conflict situations in general, he pointed out, "it is when the whole international community acts with unity and as one that we are often able to have the right impact."

Asked about expanding the war on terrorism, Mr. Annan said any attempt to take military action in other parts of the world would be a matter for the Security Council to take up. "Any attempt or any decision to attack Iraq today will be unwise… it can lead to major escalation in the region, and I would hope that would not be the case," he added.

Later that day, the Secretary-General and his wife, Nane, along with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen and his wife, went to the Oslo Synagogue for a ceremony to light the first candle of Hanukkah.

Members of the families of three Israeli soldiers and a businessman abducted late last year by Hizbollah also attended the ceremony, and the Secretary-General later met with them privately, according to a UN spokesman. "They expressed their gratitude for his efforts to obtain information on the condition of the abductees and urged him to work for the return of any still alive, or the return of their bodies if they are dead," spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said.