In joint statement, UN, Russia, US and EU urge Israeli pullout, end to terror

In joint statement, UN, Russia, US and EU urge Israeli pullout, end to terror

The international diplomatic "quartet" pursuing peace efforts in the Middle East - the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States - today urged Israel to halt immediately its military operations and called on Yasser Arafat, as "the recognized" leader of the Palestinian people, to do everything possible to stop terror attacks.

"We call for an immediate, meaningful ceasefire and an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah, specifically including Chairman Arafat's headquarters," said a joint statement released today following the meeting in Madrid, Spain, of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Foreign Minister Josep Pique of Spain, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, and Javier Solana, High Representative for European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Reaffirming the need for full and immediate implementation of Security Council resolution 1402, the Quartet called on Israel to allow "full and unimpeded" access to humanitarian organizations and services and to "refrain from the excessive use of force and undertake all possible efforts to ensure the protection of civilians."

At the same time, the statement called on Chairman Arafat, "as the recognized, elected leader of the Palestinian people, to undertake immediately the maximum possible effort to stop terror attacks against innocent Israelis" and to persuade the Palestinian people that "any and all" terrorist attacks should end immediately. The Quartet also urged the Palestinian Authority to "take all possible steps within its capacity to dismantle terrorist infrastructure" and to stop incitement to violence.

Reiterating that there was no military solution to the conflict, the Quartet called on the parties to move towards a political resolution based on the principle of land for peace and reaffirmed its support for the objective of "two States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side within secure and recognized borders," which was expressed by President George Bush and spelled out in Security Council resolution 1397.

The statement warmly welcomed the Saudi peace initiative recently endorsed by the Arab League and expressed strong support of the UN, EU and Russia for Secretary Powell's mission, calling on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to cooperate fully with the effort. The two sides were also urged to reach agreement on ceasefire proposals put forward by US envoy Anthony Zinni.

On the situation along the UN-determined Blue Line that marks Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon, the Quartet expressed "grave concern" about the most recent attacks from Lebanon and called on all parties to respect the Blue Line and show the utmost restraint.

Affirming the need to implement the plans put forward by the Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, and the committee led by former US Senator George Mitchell, the Quartet stressed there "must be a defined series of steps leading to permanent peace - involving recognition, normalization and security between the sides, an end to Israeli occupation, and an end to the conflict."

In support of these goals, the Quartet appealed to the international community to "preserve, strengthen and assist" the Palestinian Authority and to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.