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Annan, his Middle East envoy encouraged by 'Quartet' meeting in Washington

Annan, his Middle East envoy encouraged by 'Quartet' meeting in Washington

Kofi Annan speaking to press
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his top envoy for the Middle East peace process said today they were pleased by the results of Thursday's meeting in Washington D.C. of the diplomatic "Quartet" comprised of the UN, the United States, the Russian Federation and the European Union.

"I'm encouraged by what happened in Washington yesterday," the Secretary-General said in remarks to the press after briefing the Security Council on the Quartet meeting. He also expressed hope that given the tragedy that had happened in that region and the suffering of the innocent civilians caught in the conflict, "the military option is going to be so totally discredited; that we will all turn around and focus on the political search for peace."

This sentiment was echoed by the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed-Larsen, who accompanied Mr. Annan at the Quartet talks and the Council briefing.

"For the first time in a very long time, the conference in Washington yesterday produced a beam of hope, and we haven't seen that for a very, very long time in the Middle East," Mr. Roed-Larsen told reporters outside the Security Council chamber.

"Within the Quartet - and, I believe, broadly in the international community - there is an agreement on how to approach the difficult and critical matters of security, terrorism and economic revival, and also the key political issues on a parallel basis and also emphasizing that all these issues are interlinked; that gives hope," the envoy added.

He also lauded the fact that the Quartet meeting had taken the practical step of deciding to convene the international conference. "The principals in the meeting instructed their envoys who were present… to immediately start hammering out the proposal on participants, where and when the meeting should be, the agenda, the format, etc.," said Mr. Roed-Larsen. "We will shortly start working on that."

On the Jenin fact-finding mission, he noted that the Secretary-General had consulted with the Government of Israel, while a prominent member of the Security Council had put forward a resolution on the concept. "On that basis, we thought it was the right thing, we still think it's the right thing, and we regret that it turned out not to be practically possible to carry through the fact-finding mission," Mr. Roed-Larsen said.

For his part, the Secretary-General said, in response to a question from the press, that he was obviously disappointed that the team led by former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari did not go in. "I think it would have been much better for everyone if they had gone in to clarify issues," Mr. Annan said. "As it is, I think the long shadow which has been cast over Jenin will be with us for a while."