‘Appalled’ by Middle East carnage, Annan urges both leaders to pursue talks
Reacting with horror to the intensifying bloodshed in the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged leaders on both sides to pursue talks, warning that outside support for peace would fail without their efforts.
"The Secretary-General is appalled by the rising toll of carnage between Israelis and Palestinians and by the increasingly aggressive rhetoric," a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement released this morning at UN Headquarters in New York. "The Secretary-General wishes to remind Israeli and Palestinian leaders that they have a special and urgent responsibility to chart a path back to negotiations leading to a peaceful settlement of the conflict, without which there will be no security for either people."
"Third parties stand ready to help in any way they can, but the inspiration for peace and a settlement must come from the leaders," the statement said, warning that "the situation has clearly got completely out of hand, and the risks are great."
Stressing that Israeli and Palestinian officials had a responsibility to lead, the Secretary-General warned that "history will judge them harshly, and their people will not absolve them, if they fail to do so."
The Secretary-General urged the leaders of the two sides "to ask themselves" where the current escalating cycle of violence, reprisal and revenge was leading. "In his view, the Israeli and Palestinian peoples will only lose if the present drift towards disaster is allowed to continue," the statement said, emphasizing that "there can be no military solution" to the conflict.
Commenting on the statement during a press briefing later in the day, the Secretary-General's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, noted the shift in emphasis to the leaders to accept their responsibility. Mr. Annan "has put a flag down," the spokesman said, and now leaves it to the leaders to respond. The Secretary-General's approach, Mr. Eckhard underscored, is for the UN to work with the United States, Russia and the European Union to prod the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the negotiating table.