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Middle East needs 'true leadership' like that shown by Anwar Sadat, Annan says

Middle East needs 'true leadership' like that shown by Anwar Sadat, Annan says

With Israelis and Palestinians locked in bitter conflict, United Nations Secretary-General today said the Middle East needs leaders of the calibre of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Speaking on the campus of the University of Maryland, United States, the Secretary-General recalled that President Sadat showed "courage, decisiveness and extraordinary political insight" when he visited Jerusalem and spoke at the Israeli Knesset. "His visit represented an extraordinary leap of faith and imagination," Mr. Annan said. "He understood that the Arabs could not recover the land that Israel had occupied unless, in return, they offered full and genuine peace.

"And he had the intelligence and imagination to make a gesture that sparked a response in the hearts of the Israeli people," he said, referring to President Sadat's offer of what is now termed "land for peace," the cornerstone concept to a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.

The Secretary-General emphasized that hope and trust must be restored among the Israelis and Palestinians and that the international community, as embodied by the diplomatic Quartet - the UN, European Union, Russian Federation and United States - was seeking to do just that by helping to provide a road map towards a peaceful two-State solution within three years.

"We in the Quartet fully realize that the credibility of this road map will depend on performance. But performance in turn depends on hope," Mr. Annan said in delivering the Anwar Sadat Memorial Lecture to the university audience.

"Without a clear promise of the end result, and visible political progress towards it, neither side is likely to summon the will to take the risks that each must take, right from the start, to improve the security and living conditions of the other," he noted. "That is why we say that the process must be 'hope-driven,' as well as performance-driven."

Hailing the Egyptian President for his "act of breathtakingly radical daring," the Secretary-General said what is needed on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides is "true leadership, such as Anwar Sadat provided in his time."

"Let us pray that they find it before it is too late," Mr. Annan said.