Annan calls for international monitors or other outside mechanism in Middle East
"Such a mechanism could take the shape of international monitors of a ceasefire," Mr. Annan said in a message to the UN International Meeting in Support of Middle East Peace, held in Nicosia.
"Whatever form such a mechanism takes, I believe it essential to the process of restoring mutual confidence and making progress on both the political and security fronts," he stressed in the statement that was delivered on his behalf by Karen Koning AbuZayd, Deputy Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Mr. Annan painted a grim picture of the current situation, noting that in the past two weeks, "dozens of Israelis have been killed in suicide bombs, and hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli military operations in the West Bank." He warned that those events - combined with a sharp rise in attacks against Israel from Lebanon - underscored "the seriousness and potential dangers of the present escalation, not only for the Israelis and Palestinians, but also for the region and beyond."
At the same time, the Secretary-General said there were "rays of hope amidst the turmoil," citing international efforts aimed at stemming the crisis, including actions by the Beirut Arab League Summit and the UN Security Council, which had laid down "all the ingredients" for political action in its recent resolutions on the conflict. "The vision and the political road map towards a lasting peace are available," he said. "What needs to be urgently injected is the political will and the necessary impetus for concrete and concerted action."
Mr. Annan said progress would ultimately depend on the peoples - and leaders - of the region. "At this dramatic time, perhaps more than ever, both Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat should exercise their leadership with an enhanced sense of responsibility and moral authority," he said. "They are duty-bound to bring their people back from the edge of the abyss."
Pointing to the extensive damage suffered by the Palestinian economy, the Secretary-General called for a "massive assistance programme" and pledged the UN's support for this effort. He also noted that UNRWA has suffered "significant material and even human losses" and called on donors to "contribute generously" to the Agency's budget.