Annan 'deeply disturbed' by upsurge in Middle East violence

Annan 'deeply disturbed' by upsurge in Middle East violence

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Saying he was "deeply disturbed" by the recent upsurge of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged both parties to take the necessary steps to move away from violent confrontation and back to the negotiating table.

A spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement released at UN Headquarters in New York, that the Secretary-General called on Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to take "decisive action against those responsible for such terrible acts."

"Recent events have caused further serious damage to mutual confidence, and have deepened bitterness and despair," the statement said. "Yet, even at this most difficult of times, the Secretary-General would wish to remind Israelis and Palestinians that lasting peace and security for both can be achieved only through a negotiated settlement of their differences."

Conveying his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives, Mr. Annan reiterated that the targeting of civilians "is unacceptable," the spokesman said.

Mr. Annan, who was in Stockholm today, also spoke about the Middle East violence after he met with about two dozen representatives of non-governmental organizations at an event organized by the UN Association of Sweden.

"I'm distressed about what's going on in the region," the Secretary-General told reporters after the meeting. "What is happening is serious, and we need to continue and redouble our efforts to try and contain it before it gets completely out of hand."