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Middle East: Annan lauds peace appeal by Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders

Middle East: Annan lauds peace appeal by Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, today hailed a recent appeal for peace in the Middle East issued by leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths at their meeting last month in Alexandria, Egypt.

Mr. Annan received a copy of the “First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land” from Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior, whom he met today at UN Headquarters in New York. The Declaration proclaims the commitment of leaders of all three faiths to “ending the violence and bloodshed that denies the right to life and dignity.”

Mr. Annan’s spokesman distributed copies of the Declaration to reporters in New York, saying “the Secretary-General wanted to share this document with the media and to say its an illustration of what individuals can do in the pursuit of peace.”

According to spokesman Fred Eckhard, Mr. Annan “feels that such contributions are essential if the Middle East peace process is to succeed.”

During his meeting with Mr. Melchior, the Secretary-General discussed the latest peace plan being put forward by the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres. “The Secretary-General said he would encourage Mr. Peres in his efforts, despite widespread scepticism at this time, because, he said, we all need to strive for durable, long-term peace in the Middle East,” Mr. Eckhard said.

Replying to questions, the spokesman explained that Mr. Annan’s reaction to the Peres peace plan “came rather spontaneously.” Mr. Eckhard added that the Secretary-General “continues to try and encourage what he calls the ‘Quartet’ – which includes the US, the European Union, the Russian Federation as well as the UN – to put their combined weight behind any serious effort to move towards a long-term solution in the Middle East.”

“The Secretary-General’s assessment is that the Palestinians and the Israelis, left to themselves, will just continue on a spiral of violence; that the international community must step in,” the spokesman noted. “He’s called for fresh thinking, creative thinking, but he also continues to emphasize the Mitchell plan as the best path to a ceasefire, which of course is the first step towards resumption of negotiations,” Mr. Eckhard added, referring to the recommendations of a fact-finding committee chaired by former US Senator George Mitchell.

“That’s the big picture,” he said. “Whether the Middle East can move down that path is really the question we’re all asking.”