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Warning of possible war in Middle East, Annan says world must help end conflict

Warning of possible war in Middle East, Annan says world must help end conflict

Annan addresses Security Council
Warning that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict risks sliding towards full-fledged war, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, today urged the UN Security Council to work with both sides in resolving their conflict.

“The lack of mutual confidence between the two sides makes a third-party role essential,” Mr. Annan told the 15-member security body. “I truly believe that it is imperative for the Security Council and the wider international community to work in a concerted manner with the parties towards a just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Middle East.”

In his brief yet blunt speech, the Secretary-General recounted the “grim” news from the Middle East, cautioning that “we are nearing the edge of the abyss.” With more than 60 people killed over the past week, violence threatened to escalate even further, he said. “Particularly alarming is the growing belief, among both Palestinians and Israelis, that there can be no negotiated solution to the conflict.”

The key interlinked problems, according to the Secretary-General, remained “occupation; security – the need to end violence including terrorism; and the economic deprivation and suffering.”

“Yet, even at this darkest of hours, there is still room for hope,” he added, recalling that both sides had agreed in principle on the Tenet understandings and the Mitchell Committee recommendations, which together defined an array of security, economic, and political measures that would have moved the parties back to the negotiating table. Acknowledging that those plans had not met with success, Mr. Annan called for full consideration of “imaginative new ideas.”

While stressing the need to immediately reduce the violence, the Secretary-General said he had “become more and more convinced that trying to resolve the security problem on its own cannot work.” Instead, he argued, security must be addressed alongside key political issues, particularly the question of land, and economic and social issues, including “the increasingly critical, desperate conditions of the Palestinians.”

Mr. Annan said he personally, along with his representatives, had been in very close contact with leaders on both sides, in the region and among the international community. In light of the gravity of the situation, the Secretary-General said he had asked his envoy, Terje Roed Larsen, to intensify consultations with all concerned. “The outlook is bleak, but the present course of events is not irreversible,” said Mr. Annan. “Let us do everything in our power to persuade the parties to pull back from the brink, and return to the high road."