Annan urges international backing for steps to end Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Annan urges international backing for steps to end Palestinian-Israeli conflict

With the situation in the Middle East at its worst in decades, the international community must press for reaching a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement, while the parties themselves must take steps to stem the violence and establish a clearly defined political horizon for resolving their differences, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in a message to a United Nations seminar in Copenhagen.

With the situation in the Middle East at its worst in decades, the international community must press for reaching a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement, while the parties themselves must take steps to stem the violence and establish a clearly defined political horizon for resolving their differences, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in a message to a United Nations seminar in Copenhagen.

Recalling yesterday’s meeting of the diplomatic Quartet – the United States, European Union, Russian Federation and UN – the Secretary-General again backed statements by US President George Bush calling for a three-year timeframe for a final settlement, according to the text of his message to the International Media Seminar organized by the UN Department of Public Information.

Mr. Annan called on both parties to show their commitment to peace. “The Palestinian Authority should take immediate and specific action to prevent terrorist acts against Israel, and its leadership must do more to de-legitimize terrorism among the public,” he said in his message, which was delivered by Shashi Tharoor, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. “Only a democratic Palestinian administration that forswears and actively combats terror will be able to secure just final status arrangements for its people.”

The Government of Israel, for its part, “must stop all settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” he said, calling such activity “a fundamental obstacle to advancing the peace process” which ran contrary to international law. Israel should also withdraw from the areas it has reoccupied, resume revenue transfers, and lift the increasingly severe curfews, internal closures and other restrictions on movement that impose such hardships on Palestinians. He also stressed that the social and economic misery of the Palestinian people was a “serious obstacle” to peace.

“The key to stitching these many strands of grievance and hope into a renewed fabric of peace negotiations lies in simultaneously reducing violence and establishing a clearly defined political horizon for resolving the permanent status issues,” he said, warning that if the parties could not agree on the design of that process, “the unremitting violence in the region may well continue.” All had a duty to act, and to strive for a clear understanding of one another’s positions, he stressed.

Organized by the UN Department of Public Information in cooperation with Denmark’s Foreign Ministry, the two-day seminar on “Ending confrontation: Building peace in the Middle East” provides a forum for media representatives and international experts to discuss lessons learned since the signing of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993. Participants are reviewing the issues that continue to divide the parties, the role of third parties, especially the UN, in restoring confidence, and how the media can serve as a partner for peace.