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In message to Palestinian rights meeting, Annan calls on both sides to pursue peace

In message to Palestinian rights meeting, Annan calls on both sides to pursue peace

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today repeated his call for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to protect civilians and pursue peace, and urged the international community to support efforts to permanently resolve the Middle East conflict.

In a message to a United Nations meeting on Palestinian rights being held in Rabat, Morocco, Mr. Annan repeated his "dismay at the disproportionate and excessive use of force which Israel has too often used in conducting its self-defence." He also reiterated his call on Israel to halt settlement activity throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.

At the same time, the Secretary-General recalled his appeals for an end to terrorist killings of Israeli civilians - actions which "can never be justified" - and called for the Palestinian Authority to do more to prevent them.

"Both sides must do much more to meet their obligations to protect civilians under international humanitarian law," Mr. Annan said in a message to the UN African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, delivered on his behalf by Mervat Tallawy, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

The Secretary-General emphasized the importance of ending the occupation while providing genuine security for Israel in order to realize the vision of two States - Israel and Palestine - living side by side in peace.

"I call on Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat to assume their responsibilities and lead their peoples and the entire region away from the abyss," he said. "For that to happen neither side should set conditions and no extremist should be allowed to derail this vitally important undertaking."

Mr. Annan pledged "to do whatever it takes to help these peace efforts, in coordination with the 'Quartet' [United States, UN, Russian Federation and European Union] but also in cooperation with other important region and international actors."

Calling for intensified international engagement with both sides, he said, "We need to help the parties chart a clear path that will lead to resolving this conflict once and for all." At the same time, he urged the donor community to provide assistance to the Palestinians, particularly through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).