Lead your peoples away from disaster, Annan tells Sharon and Arafat
Decrying the spiralling violence in the Middle East as "horrifying" carnage, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today used a speech before the Security Council to directly appeal to the people of Israel and Palestine to stop deadly attacks against each other and to the leaders of the two sides to take urgent steps towards a political settlement through negotiations.
"To the leaders on both sides - Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat in particular - I say you can lead your peoples away from disaster," the Secretary-General told the Council this morning during a meeting convened at his request. "You have accepted the Tenet Understandings and the Mitchell recommendations as the basis for negotiations. Today, more than ever, you must recognize that security and political settlement are indivisible. One cannot exist without the other. Many of your friends stand ready to support you if you seize this opportunity."
Pointing to a number of encouraging developments, Mr. Annan welcomed the decision by the United States to send its envoy, Gen. Anthony Zinni, back to the region and noted that both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon had taken steps to facilitate his efforts. "Mr. Arafat has finally arrested all those suspected of involvement in the assassination of Rehevam Zeevi, the Israeli Tourism Minister," the Secretary-General said. "Mr. Sharon has wisely given up his demand for seven days of calm before beginning negotiations."
The Secretary-General also voiced strong backing for the proposal put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, calling it "a clear and compelling vision for peace in the Middle East based on the bedrock of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338." He appealed to the leaders of the Arab world "not to give up on the search for peace, but rather to unite in support of this vision, showing the world and the parties that there is an alternative to war."
"I call on Mr. Arafat and Mr. Sharon immediately to take the necessary political, security and economic steps on the ground which can help realize this vision," Mr. Annan said, adding that the Security Council must lend its "full authority and influence to the vital cause of peace."
In giving the Council his assessment of the situation on the ground, the Secretary-General said he was profoundly disturbed by the increasing use of heavy weaponry by Israel in civilian areas. He also noted that large-scale military operations in pursuit of Palestinian militants had taken place throughout civilian areas and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, causing large-scale loss of life, just as international agencies were reported growing disregard on the part of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) for the safety of medical personnel.
On their side, Mr. Annan said, "the Palestinians have played their full part in the escalating cycle of violence, counter-violence and revenge." He cited a series of attacks by Palestinian groups on Israeli military and civilian targets and IDF checkpoints and settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the firing of Kassam II rockets against civilian areas in Israeli towns. "I am particularly disturbed," Mr. Annan said, "by suicide attacks, which deliberately target civilians, spreading fear and anxiety throughout the general population."
Directing his comments towards the Palestinians, he said, "You have the inalienable right to a viable state within secure, internationally recognized borders, but you must stop all acts of terror and all suicide bombings." However, he called the deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of civilians "morally repugnant," adding that the practice was harming the Palestinian cause by weakening international support, while making Israelis believe "that it is their existence as a State, and not the occupation, that is being opposed."
Addressing the Israelis, he said: "you have the right to live in peace and security within secure internationally recognized borders. But you must end the illegal occupation." He called on Israel to stop the bombing of civilian areas, the assassinations, the unnecessary use of lethal force, the demolitions and "the daily humiliation of ordinary Palestinians." Such actions, he pointed out, "gravely erode Israel's standing within the international community and further fuel the fires of hatred, despair and extremism among Palestinians."
- Kofi Annan addresses Security Council