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Middle East in three-fold crisis: security, humanitarian, regional - Annan

Middle East in three-fold crisis: security, humanitarian, regional - Annan

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Following a high-level diplomatic meeting on the Middle East in Madrid today, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that the region is facing a steadily escalating threefold crisis - security, humanitarian and regional - and called for an end to the violence.

“We face continuing intensification of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians; we face [a] mounting humanitarian and human rights crisis in the West Bank and Gaza with enormous suffering for the innocent civilian population caught up in the hostilities; and we face rising tensions throughout the region, particularly along Israel’s northern border,” Mr. Annan told reporters at a press briefing with the three other members of the diplomatic “Quartet” – the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States.

Referring to the volatile situation along the line of Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, the Secretary-General called on the Lebanese Government "and all relevant parties" to condemn and prevent violation of the so-called Blue Line. "Attacks at any point across the Blue Line, including into the Shabaa farms area in the occupied Golan Heights, are violations of Security Council resolutions," he said. "Respect for decisions of the Security Council is the most basic requirement of international legitimacy."

Responding to questions from reporters, the Secretary-General noted that it would be difficult to assess the full gravity of the humanitarian situation without access to "all the territories that are now a theatre of battle," but predicted that "we will be shocked by what we see."

On suicide attacks against Israelis, Mr. Annan called the practice "morally repugnant" and indefensible. "Attacks against innocent and unarmed civilians is terrorism that we cannot tolerate," he said.

The Secretary-General also drew attention to the "really deplorable economic and social situation in the occupied territories" and called for stepped-up assistance to help civilians there and to support the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Annan later departed Madrid for Rome to chair the twice-yearly meeting of the heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes, known as the Chief Executives Board.