UN Calls For Multinational Peacemaking Force In Middle East
United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan has called for a multinational peacemaking force to be sent to the Middle East.
The call came hours after United States moves to level a ceasefire from Israeli and Palestinian leaders failed. US Secretary of State Colin Powell met today with Israeli PM Ariel Sharon but emerged from the meeting without even a timetable for an Israeli military withdrawal from Palestinian Territories.
Koffi Annan then advanced his move to bring together an International community response. The move drew criticism from the United States where a top US official was quoted tonight saying the best course of action would be to aid Powell's mission to the Middle East seeking political solutions to the crisis.
But Annan is adament: "I think the proposition that a force should be sent in there to create a secure environment, as well as provide space for diplomatic and political negotiations, can no longer be deferred," the Secretary-General said during a press encounter in Geneva. "It is urgent; it is imperative. That capacity exists in the world today, we must now muster the will."
Annan said he was talking about a force that would help create conditions to allow assistance to reach those in need, to enable an end to the killing and to give the space for political and diplomatic talks.
He also noted that he was not talking about a buffer zone. In New York, the UN Security Council held closed-door consultations on the situation in the Middle East, in part to discuss Annan's comments on the force idea and to hear a briefing on it from the UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast.
A spokesman for Annan told reporters at UN Headquarters that the Secretary-General was floating the concept of deploying a multinational force, not a UN force.
"He's hoping that the Council will keep in mind the experience of Bosnia, where the carnage was allowed to carry on for years before a meaningful international fighting force was put in place," Eckhard told a press briefing.
"So he wants a force that's strong enough not to be challenged, and one that can secure the environment so that negotiations can be conducted and the Palestinian Authority can rebuild its capacity to govern."
The parties, Eckhard said, would have to cooperate with the deployment of such a force: "The Secretary-General does not have in mind a force that would go in over the objections of one of the parties.
"In his judgment, an observer mission would not be up to the task, given how far the situation in the area has deteriorated."
Eckhard stressed Annan did not yet have concrete plans concerning the composition of the force, "except that it should be a multinational, and not a UN, force.
"A multinational force can be assembled quickly and deployed quickly; a UN force takes too long given the gravity of the situation that the Secretary-General is asking that we deal with immediately and effectively," Eckhard said.