Issuing grim warning on Middle East, Annan calls for ‘new and urgent push for peace’
Warning that tensions in the Middle East are near their breaking point, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for a “new and urgent push for peace” from all sides, including the international community, lest the people of the region be consigned to new depths of suffering and grief.
In his last briefing to the Security Council on the region, Mr. Annan said the Middle East was in “profound crisis,” and the situation is now more complex, more fragile and more dangerous than it has been for a very long time with mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians reaching “new heights.”
“Tensions in the region are near the breaking point… Extremism and populism are leaving less political space for moderates, including those States that have reached peace agreements with Israel… The opportunity for negotiating a two-State solution will last for only so long,” he warned.
“Should we fail to seize it, the people who most directly bear the brunt of this calamity will be consigned to new depths of suffering and grief. Other conflicts and problems will become that much harder to resolve. And extremists the world over would enjoy a boost in their recruiting efforts.”
Despite such problems and acknowledging that “much trust will have to be rebuilt,” Mr. Annan remains optimistic about a diplomatic solution, as he called for changes in mindset by both Israelis and Palestinians and more effort by the diplomatic Quartet – the UN, the United States, Russian Federation and European Union, which is seeking a two-State solution, known as the Road Map, for Israel and Palestine to live side-by-side in peace.
He said that Israel needs to reach a negotiated end to its occupation based on the principle of land for peace, while Palestinians and their supporters will never be truly effective if they focus solely on Israel’s transgressions, without conceding any justice or legitimacy to Israel’s own concerns.
“The parties themselves, at various times and through various diplomatic channels, have come close to bridging almost all of the gaps between them. There is every reason for the parties to try again, with principled, concerted help from the international community. We need a new and urgent push for peace,” he said.
“I believe that the fundamental aspirations of both peoples can be reconciled. I believe in the right of Israel to exist, and to exist in full and permanent security – free from terrorism, free from attack, free even from the threat of attack… I believe in the right of the Palestinians to exercise their self-determination. They have been miserably abused and exploited… They deserve to see fulfilled their simple ambition to live in freedom and dignity.”
He said that the Road Map, which was endorsed by the Council in resolution 1515, should still be the “reference point” around which any effort to reenergize a political effort should be concentrated, but said the Quartet – which sponsored the plan, should also be “open to new ideas and initiatives.”
“The Quartet needs to do more to restore faith not only in its own seriousness and effectiveness, but also in the Roadmap’s practicability and to create the conditions for resuming a viable peace process,” Mr. Annan said.
“It needs to find a way to institutionalize its consultations with the relevant regional partners. It needs to engage the parties directly in its deliberations. The time has come for the Quartet to be clearer at the outset on the parameters of an end-game deal.”
He said the world community must develop a “new understanding” of the uncertainty engulfing the Middle East, but added that although its various crises and conflicts – which also involve Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and Iraq – have become “ever more intertwined,” the parties themselves bear the main responsibility.
“Each of these conflicts has its own dynamics and causes. Each will require its own specific solution, and its own process to produce a solution that will endure. And in each case, it is the parties involved who bear the primary responsibility for peace. No one can make peace for them.”