Briefing the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East in the wake of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the senior United Nations envoy to the region urged both sides today to advance the peace process.
"Now that he has gone, Israelis and Palestinians, and friends of both peoples throughout the world, must make even greater efforts to bring about the peaceful realization of the Palestinian right to self-determination," Terje Roed-Larsen told the Council in his final briefing as Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, a position he assumed in 1999.
The envoy hailed the Palestinian leadership for taking "the first firm steps toward instituting a smooth transition of power" and for preventing internal unrest. He also praised Israel for allowing Palestinian security forces to bear arms.
"The extent and success of coordination in recent days is reminiscent of earlier, happier days, and might herald a new beginning - a new beginning that would come not because of President Arafat's passing, but in spite of the very difficult situation," he said.
Mr. Roed-Larsen called for the Palestinians to organize and conduct free and fair elections for the presidency within 60 days and to undertake "visible, sustained, targeted and effective action on the ground to halt violence and terrorist activity."
Israel, he said, must "refrain from all actions undermining trust, including settlement activity, facilitate the preparations and conduct of elections, and take steps to significantly improve the humanitarian situation by lifting curfews and easing restrictions on the movement of persons and goods."
Mr. Roed-Larsen emphasized that "all these steps have to be taken in parallel."
Striking a personal note as he delivered his final briefing as the Secretary-General's Personal Representative, Mr. Roed-Larsen paid tribute to his staff and all others working for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, especially Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, as well as the representatives of the Palestinian people.
The 56-year old Norwegian diplomat was named as UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process on 21 September 1999.
In 1992, Mr. Roed-Larsen, then the Director of the Oslo-based Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science, was asked to help establish a secret channel for talks between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel. Those negotiations concluded with the historic signing of the Declaration of Principles at the White House on 13 September 1993.
Video of Council meeting [53mins]