Expanding on the concept of a multinational force he had floated last week in response to the spiralling Middle East violence, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today told a private meeting of the Security Council that the latest tragic developments in the region gave additional urgency to the consideration of his idea and outlined the goals, nature and functions of such a force.
"The force must be impartial and capable of taking decisive action," Mr. Annan told the closed-door session of the Council, according to a copy of his remarks made available to the press. "It must have a robust mandate, credible strength and be large enough to carry it out."
The Secretary-General stressed that he contemplated not a United Nations contingent, but rather "a multinational force formed by a coalition of the willing" that was authorized by the Council under the UN Charter's Chapter VII, which provides for the use of force.
Such an operation would not be risk-free, he added. "However, the situation is so dangerous, that the international community has an obligation to provide this assistance."
According to Mr. Annan, the force would have four key objectives. Firstly, it would work with the parties to end the violence, in part through monitoring the withdrawal and redeployment of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to positions held before 28 September 2000, in accordance with a plan put forward by CIA Director George Tenet.
The second goal would be to gradually create secure conditions in the occupied territories for the resumption of normal economic activity and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian and development assistance. The force, working with the international donor community, would also create conditions to allow the Palestinian Authority to rebuild its institutions, including those dealing with law and order, which have been damaged or destroyed in the current military campaign.
Finally, the multinational force would work to create a stable environment to permit the resumption of negotiations aimed at achieving a political settlement.
"It is time for the international community to pursue such an option in a pro-active way, rather than waiting for the parties to arrive at this conclusion on their own," Mr. Annan said. "A multinational force is essential to a gradual restoration of trust between the two sides, which is so vital if further steps toward a broad framework for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace are to be taken."
Before briefing the Council on the force, the Secretary-General told the 15-member body that he was deeply disturbed by the information he had just received from Terje Roed-Larsen, his Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and Peter Hansen, the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), who had visited the Jenin refugee camp today and described the situation there as "horrific."