Secretary-General calls for negotiations amid symbols of Middle East grief

Secretary-General calls for negotiations amid symbols of Middle East grief

Prompted by a graphic display of the grief caused by ongoing violence in the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today voiced hope that both sides would step back from the abyss and return to the negotiating table.

Prompted by a graphic display of the grief caused by ongoing violence in the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today voiced hope that both sides would step back from the abyss and return to the negotiating table.

The display – featuring more than 1,000 symbolic "coffins" draped with Israeli and Palestinian flags lined up in a plaza opposite the UN's New York Headquarters – attested to the “human cost of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Mr. Annan said in a message delivered on his behalf by UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieren Prendergast.

“Grief for lost loved ones has become the prevailing mood, funerals as frequent as trips to the market, and fear of sudden death the cloud that darkens the eyes of everyone, even the youngest boy or girl,” the Secretary-General noted, expressing hope that both sides would “allow themselves to see a different future, return to the negotiating table, and begin the necessary and long overdue work of building peace.”

“The sight of these coffins brings no solace, and perhaps fresh sorrow, to the families of the victims,” Mr. Annan added. “But the symbolism and the loss they represent should bring wisdom to the two communities and leaders and spur the rest of us to do all we can to bring an end, once and for all, to this long season of tears.”

The event was organized by the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace.