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Middle East: Annan urges sides to show restraint, calls for intensified peace quest

Middle East: Annan urges sides to show restraint, calls for intensified peace quest

Kofi Annan speaking to the press
Increasingly concerned about the intensifying cycle of violence in the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged all sides to show utmost restraint and called for a renewed effort to achieve peace.

"I believe that it is when the killing is going on that it is even more urgent to intensify the search for peace," Mr. Annan told the press this morning as he arrived at UN Headquarters in New York.

"I think the tragic situation should prepare us to continue our search for a solution, and I think as I have said before the [Security] Council, we really need to look at all creative ideas and try to help the parties come back from the brink. And therefore I don't think what has happened should detract us from focussing on the search for a durable solution and attempt to bring the parties to the table and to break the impasse," Mr. Annan said, adding that the ideas put forward by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah "are still very useful and should be pursued."

Asked about the role of the United States in the search for peace in the Middle East, Mr. Annan said Washington had been very active on the issue. "We as a quartet have been working together - by quartet I mean the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation, and myself - and we will continue our efforts to try and help the parties come back from the brink."

"It is an extremely dangerous situation now," Mr. Annan stressed. "I send my deepest sympathies to the families - both Israeli and Palestinian - who have lost loved ones, and I appeal to the leaders to do whatever they can and whatever possible to stop the cycle of violence, this cycle of revenge, where only the innocent and unarmed civilians often get caught in the middle."

In a statement issued later in the day, Mr. Annan's spokesman said that the Secretary-General was increasingly concerned at the intensifying cycle of violence, reprisals and counter-violence between Israel and the Palestinians, culminating in the latest shocking wave over the weekend and today. "The violence between the two sides must be brought to a halt forthwith," spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

"The Secretary-General strongly urges all concerned to exercise maximum restraint and to remember that in the end there will still have to be a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians," the spokesman said. "He strongly believes that only the resumption of a meaningful dialogue will facilitate the achievement of a lasting ceasefire and a just, lasting and comprehensive solution."