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To stem Middle East conflict, security and peace must be tackled together: Annan

To stem Middle East conflict, security and peace must be tackled together: Annan

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Addressing the Security Council in closed session amid intensifying violence in the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for simultaneous attention to Israel's security concerns and the Palestinians' political aspirations, and urged the 15-member body to implement its own resolutions on the matter.

"I must tell the Council candidly that I see no prospect of breaking the current downward spiral - and recreating the possibility of peace and security for both sides - unless we address the core problems in the Middle East - occupation; violence, including terrorism; and the economic plight of the Palestinian people," according to the text of Mr. Annan's statement released after the meeting. The session was convened at the Secretary-General's request so that he could brief the Council on a situation on the ground that "has seen a further sharp escalation."

In a press statement after the meeting, Gennady Gatilov of the Russian Federation, which holds the Council's presidency for the month of April, said that the 15-member body urged both parties involved to cease fire immediately. "They strongly demanded that the parties adhere strictly to Security Council resolutions 1397 and 1402," he added.

"I believe there is a growing international understanding of the need to treat security and peace as two sides of the same coin, yet each of the parties remains unwilling to accept the other's basic demands," he said in his second statement to the Council in less than 72 hours. Mr. Annan emphasized the need to "take into account the legitimate security concerns of Israel and the legitimate political aspirations of the Palestinians at the same time."

The Secretary-General reviewed recent developments within Israel and the occupied territories, including the suicide bombing in Netanya which "was aimed not only at Israeli civilians; it was aimed at the very possibility of peaceful coexistence between the two peoples." He also reported the subsequent Israeli attack on Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's compound, warning of the "disastrous results" this action could generate. "Indeed, I believe that Israel's presence inside the compound of Chairman Arafat, and its military actions in the West Bank and Gaza, can only produce a further deterioration, and the loss of more innocent Palestinian and Israeli life, and should be ended immediately," he said.

The Secretary-General also pointed to "worrying developments" along the Blue Line of withdrawal between Israel and Lebanon, including recent mortar and rocket attacks by Hezbollah and the Israeli response. "The Blue Line should not be violated by any party," he stressed.

"The combination of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, Israeli military action in Palestinian areas, and attacks from southern Lebanon across the Blue Line produce a situation which has clear potential to threaten regional peace and security," he told the Council.

Sounding a "small note of optimism," the Secretary-General urged Council members to recall the adoption by the Arab League Summit last week of the Saudi peace proposal, as well as the Council's own recent resolution affirming a vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders. He urged the Council to do its part to implement that resolution, as well as a subsequent text, adopted on Saturday, calling on Israel to withdraw troops from Palestinian cities, and urging both parties to move immediately to a meaningful ceasefire.

Speaking to reporters after his briefing, the Secretary-General voiced hope that Council members would work "not only collectively but also individually, through their capitals, to have an impact on the situation and to implement these resolutions."