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UNSG Kofi Annan's Comments On Middle East Crisis


New York, 8 October 2000 - on the situation in the Middle East

In view of the increasingly precarious situation in the Middle East, which carries the risk of a major conflagration, the Secretary-General has decided to travel immediately to the region. He will depart from New York tonight, arriving in Tel Aviv tomorrow evening. He is expected to see both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak shortly after his arrival. He also plans to meet other leaders in the region.

In recent days, the Secretary-General has been in constant contact with leaders at the highest levels in the region as well as in many other concerned governments. His aim has been to explore urgent means of ending the violence and bringing the Middle East peace process back on track.

In making his decision, the Secretary-General feels it is imperative that he makes every possible effort to break the prevailing impasse between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He has consulted the two parties and other key actors and the President of the Security Council who have expressed their full support for this initiative.

The Secretary-General is fully aware that this will be a difficult mission, the outcome of which is uncertain. Nevertheless, the stakes are so high - not least in terms of innocent lives - that he feels it is his duty to expend every effort, in conjunction with those being undertaken by others in the international community, to lower tensions and restore the peace process.

Secretary-General, alarmed by Middle East violence, appeals for restraint: 7 October 2000

The Secretary-General is alarmed by the situation on the ground in the Middle East, where the violence in the occupied territories between Palestinians and Israelis has spread to the border between Israel and Lebanon and the Shaba farms area of the Golan Heights.

Acutely conscious of the dangers of a further deterioration, the Secretary- General has spent the day in intensive contacts with leaders in the region. He has also been working with other statesmen with influence with the parties to try to calm the situation. In his view, the most urgent task is to break the current cycle of violence and to stop the senseless killing which have brought tragedy to so many families.

To this end, the Secretary-General appeals to the parties to show the utmost restraint and rein in their forces and supporters, so as to give the ongoing efforts to restore the peace process the best chance of success, and to respect relevant Security Council resolutions as well as humanitarian norms. He also urges each side to maintain the inviolability of religious sites of importance to other faiths, since all must understand that true faith demands respect for the beliefs of others.

Secretary-General gratified by progress made at Paris Middle East peace meeting: 4 October 2000
Following is the text of a statement issued today by the Office of the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

French President Jacques Chirac invited the Secretary-General to join him in consultations this evening with the United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the President of the Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat. They examined the steps needed to break the cycle of violence and resume the negotiations for a just and comprehensive settlement in the Middle East.

The Secretary-General is gratified at the progress made and that the discussions will continue in Egypt. He is ready to do whatever he can to facilitate the implementation of any agreement which may be reached by the parties.

He will continue to stay in close contact with the parties and other key players.

Press encounter following meeting with the President of the European

Commission, Romano Prodi, Stasbourg, 3 October 2000 (unofficial transcript)
Q: Arafat said he would not meet Barak in Paris tomorrow - what are your comments on the Middle East?

SG: It is a very tragic situation and I really feel sorry for those who've lost their lives. They have my full sympathy and condolences. I think none of us will forget that image of a child who was shot ... in the presence of his father as his father was trying to protect him. I have been in touch with the leaders right from the beginning -- beginning last week, before I left New York -- appealing to them to do everything they can to bring the situation under control. I have spoken to both of them today.

Since last week I have had my own representative on the ground, Terje Roed-Larsen, more or less going in between the leaders, working with them to try to calm the situation -- and he is staying in touch with me.

Obviously the situation is very grave, and the leaders have not been able to bring it under control.

It is tragic, because I thought we were so close in the peace process. When we met at the Summit with both leaders, the plan was to use the next five weeks to make a final push for peace. Instead of moving forward in the peace process we seem to have almost an all-out war in a highly populated area. It is incumbent on the leaders to do whatever they can to rein in their forces and ensure that innocent civilians are not the ones who pay the price.

I was not aware that the question of international mediation has been rejected. I thought the Americans were going to lead such an effort. I know that meetings in Paris had been planned and I myself was going to meet with the two of them in Paris tomorrow. Obviously, depending on what happens between now and tomorrow, Mr. Arafat may still come to Paris. I think we should all do whatever we can to bring an end to this.

So now we have two agendas: one, an immediate end to the violence -- and I appeal to everyone concerned and anyone with influence, and particularly those directly involved, to stop it -- and then, to see if we can bring the peace process back on track.

Press encounter prior to meeting with Walter Schwimmer, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 3 October 2000 (unofficial transcript from French)

Q: Yesterday, the Palestinians asked the European Union to interpose itself between the Israeli army and the Palestinian people. Do you think this a good idea? An idea that the UN could support.

SG: For the moment the situation is very violent and very serious. I think that the first thing to do is to work with both sides to calm the situation, to stop the violence which has hurt so many civilians -- including children. This is a tragic situation, it's a serious situation. I think if we can first stop the violence and continue working with the parties it would be step forward. The first thing is to stop the violence and then we can work with the two parties. They have asked for an international inquiry and I understand that the Americans have accepted to do this. I have had conversations with Mrs. Albright, with Mr. Arafat and with Mr. Barak -- and I [inaudible] them and work closely with them -- so we now have to see what happens.

Press encounter in Geneva, 2 October 2000 (unofficial transcript)

SG: I am happy to be back in Geneva. I understand there are one or two questions you may want to put to me.

Q: Do you have any reaction to the violence in the Middle East?

SG: Obviously, it is very worrying, the violence in the Middle East. I have been in touch with the two leaders and appealed to them to do whatever they can to bring the situation under control and bring an end to the violence. I also have my own Special Representative, Mr. Larsen, who is on the ground and has been working with the two leaders to see what we can do to end the violence. I am going to continue to stay in touch with them. I hope these events are not going to derail the crucial peace talks and that despite this major hiccup and serious incident, the process will continue. We must succeed and the talks should go forward.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, President Arafat has called upon the United Nations to intervene in one way or another. Do you have anything to say about this?

SG: I know that there has been a suggestion that an international team be put together to review and investigate the events. I have also heard that a demarche has been made explicitly to the American Government. I am in touch with my office in New York and my man on the ground. We will need to analyze and review further the nature of the report of the request, whether it is to us, to the Security Council, or to the American Government. But I have heard the reports that there is a request for an international investigation.

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