Commending what he called Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s “courageous decision” to carry through with the painful process of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today expressed the hope that “both Palestinians and Israelis will exercise restraint in this challenging period.”
“If there is to be peace in the Middle East, it will require leadership, vision and the willingness of leaders on both sides to make sacrifices for the greater good,” Mr. Annan said in a statement released by his spokesman in New York.
Mr. Annan also notes that it is an important opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to demonstrate its commitment to peace and security by establishing the rule of law in Gaza following the withdrawal.
He also condemns the shooting death of Palestinian civilians by an Israeli gunman yesterday and sends his condolences to their families and to the Palestinian Authority.
“The Secretary-General believes that a successful disengagement should be the first step towards a resumption of the peace process, in accordance with the Road Map,” the statement adds, referring to the plan sponsored by the diplomatic Quartet – UN, European Union, Russia and United States – which calls for a series of parallel steps leading to two states living side-by-side in peace by the end of the year.