Citing a moment of “promise and potential” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for global support for an independent, democratic Palestinian state and pledged the world body’s readiness to help in the three main areas of governance, security and economic development.
“The sense of expectation is palpable. There is a real feeling that, after long years of suffering, bitterness and despair, better days may lie ahead,” he told an international meeting in London in support of the Palestinian Authority. “At long last, we can all sense a new wave of movement. I urge everyone to engage, do the hard work and turn today's opening into a real end to the conflict.”
Referring to last Friday’s “appalling” Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, in which five Israelis were killed and dozens injured, he stressed the need for resolute determination not to be deterred by such violence and said he was encouraged that both sides are working together to find those responsible and prevent further attacks.
He noted that good governance is essential if the Palestinian public is to have confidence in its leadership and praised the Palestinian Authority for acknowledging the need for reform. “The United Nations and its agencies continue to help the Authority build up its capacity, and we look forward to working with the Authority and with other international partners to review the progress that has been made,” he added.
On security, the lack of which undermines everything for both sides, he welcomed the new coordinating group that is meant to work towards ending all acts of violence against Israelis and Palestinians. “The United Nations will do its utmost to provide support to the new group, and to the security forces of the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
As for economic development, “the third pillar of the progress we hope to see,” Mr. Annan stressed that without real and discernible change such as more jobs and the removal of checkpoints and roadblocks, the Palestinian economy will continue to struggle, sowing prolonged, pervasive despair among the Palestinian populace.
“The international community must work constructively with the Government of Israel to create an environment in which this aspect of reform is also addressed,” he said. “The United Nations welcomes a review of existing international aid structures and mechanisms. We will do our part to ensure they are as effective as possible.”
Mr. Annan called on the international community to continue supporting both sides in further steps towards full implementation of the Road Map, the peace plan devised by the diplomatic Quartet – UN, European Union, Russia and United States – which met on the sidelines of today’s conference.
The plan calls on both Israel and the Palestinians to take parallel and reciprocal steps leading to two states living side by side in peace, originally by the end of 2005, and today the Quartet reaffirmed their commitment to help both sides make progress towards this goal.
They also strongly condemned Friday’s terrorist attack and, while welcoming Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation of it, emphasized the need for further sustained action by the Palestinian Authority to prevent acts of terrorism.
They welcomed last months summit in Egypt between Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at which both leaders announced steps to halt violence, and Israel’s commitment to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, but they stressed that the withdrawal should be undertaken in a way consistent with the Road Map and that a Palestinian state must be truly viable with contiguous territory on the West Bank.
“The Quartet remains ready to engage actively, reaffirms its encouragement and support for both sides for the progress they have made in recent weeks, and reiterates its commitment to the fulfilment of the vision of two states, a safe and secure Israel and a sovereign, contiguous, democratic Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” they said in a statement issued after the meeting.