With the people of the Middle East now approaching a number of important turning points, assistance from their regional and international partners – and from responsible mass media – can prevent a slide back into conflict and confrontation, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.
"[With] help from responsible media – media that refrain from myths, stereotypes and hate propaganda – they can avoid inflaming an already volatile climate, he said in a message delivered by Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor to the International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East in Cairo.
The international media seminar, being held today and tomorrow, is the 13th since 1991 in a series organized by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) in response to General Assembly resolutions. This year's focus is on reinvigorating the peace process, and the role of international and regional actors in facilitating a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Mr. Tharoor is moderating the seminar.
Since the last such seminar, Mr. Annan said in his message, the political situation in the region has improved, thanks to the historic Palestinian elections in January, Palestinian security reforms, the understandings reached at Sharm el-Sheik and the preparations for an Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank.
"Unfortunately, we have also seen a slow but steady increase in violent incidents in recent weeks, underlining the fragility of the moment, he said stressing: "That only makes it more urgent that, despite hardship and fear, we take advantage of the revived spirit of cooperation and keep our eyes on our long-standing objective: two states, Israel and a sovereign, viable, contiguous and democratic Palestine, living side by side in peace and security."
"I have urged Palestinians to do more to prevent acts of violence and terror. I have also continued to stress the need to avoid unilateral actions, such as the Israeli Barrier and continued settlement expansion, that could prejudge the resolution of final status issues or the implementation of UN resolutions," said Mr. Annan.
The Secretary-General said that when the peace process is moving forward, much seems possible. But when it stands still, "the parties are actually moving backward, as positions harden, resentment builds, opportunities are missed, and the slightest provocation or misunderstanding risks sparking great damage." He therefore urged regional and international partners, as well as the mass media, to help make recent events a new start on the road towards a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.