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UNSG Kofi Annan Comments On Middle East Violence

KOFI ANNAN'S COMMENTS ON THE SITUATION

New York, 31 October 2000
The Secretary-General is increasingly concerned at the continuing wave of violence in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. He is dismayed by the ongoing loss of innocent lives.

The Secretary-General believes that a full and immediate implementation of the understandings reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit is the only way to break the current cycle of violence and to stabilize the situation. He calls on both sides to honour their commitments under this agreement and to exercise maximum restraint.

For his part, the Secretary-General continues to follow developments closely. He remains in close contact with the participants at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit and with other international leaders. His good offices remain at the disposal of the parties.

Comments to the press, outside the Security Council, 20 October 2000 (unofficial transcript)

SG: Good Afternoon ladies and gentlemen, I've just come out of the Council discussions, and I understand you may want to ask me one or two questions.

Q: Secretary-General can you share with us what you told the Council, the basic message you gave them.

SG: Basically I told the Council about my own efforts in the region and the outcome of the Summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, and the need for all parties to implement it in good faith. Even though there may be aspects of the agreement that one or the other may not like, but we have to try to implement it in it's entirety, and of course I indicated that I will work with President Clinton in setting up the Commission that will look at the fact-finding body that will look into what happened, why we got to where we were and how we can take steps to prevent recurrence in the future.

Of, course this afternoon I will also brief the General Assembly on the efforts and the agreement in Sharm and the need for all of us to support it. It's only a beginning. We have heavy lifting ahead of us and it can only work if all the parties implement it in good faith.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, in this last week you said the situation was delicate and fluid. Also within that same day US Representative Holbrooke said that it was the most dangerous day in the Middle East in 20 years. How would you characterise what's going on there now, considering a lot of the violence is not abated.

SG: I think the violence has abated, I mean there is some violence going on but not to the same degree and the same level. What I will say is that the tensions are still high. Some aspects of the Sharm agreement have been implemented and steps have been taken but we are nowhere near the level where I would say it is satisfactory. So I think the next 48 to 72 hours is going to be crucial and I hope the parties will stick with the agreement and continue to implement it with the facilitation of the United States.

Q: What effect do you think the resolution of the General Assembly will have on the situation in the Middle East? Using your own expression, will the words in the resolution inflame or soothe the situation?

SG: I think it depends on the final text. I understand the parties are working on it, working on the resolution. Many amendments are being introduced and I do not know what the final text will be. I hope it will be a message that will be conciliatory, a message that will support Sharm, a message that will encourage the parties to implement the agreement, a message that will urge the international community, working with the two parties, to find a final comprehensive and a just and peaceful solution. If it is that kind of a message I think it will be helpful.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva last night passed a resolution creating another human rights enquiry calling on Mary Robinson and about six special rapporteurs to travel to the Occupied Territories. Is this a move that you think is helpful or unhelpful and might provide a sort of provocative atmosphere now, and are you concerned that the relationship between the UN and Israel is returning to a somewhat difficult and perhaps more hostile relationship at a time when it had been improving?

SG: No, I think the relationship between Israeli and the United Nations has been a difficult one. It's not always been as smooth as one would have liked. I think in recent months and recent years we have seen a certain improvement and I personally have been able to work with both parties in an even-handed manner. I think it is essential that I continue to do that and as an Organization we should be seen as an entity that tries to help move the process forward, that tries to work with the parties to find a just and comprehensive peace in the region. There is a Commission, or fact-finding mission, that was set up at Sharm and of course the [Security] Council itself had asked for that Commission to be set up. What came out of Sharm is something that both parties agreed to and I will be working with President Clinton in setting up that fact-finding body.

The Geneva resolution is something that is outside of what we are doing here. It was done by the Human Rights Commission, which is a body of member states, and they took that decision. I have not seen any official reaction from the Israeli authorities and therefore I do not know what their reaction to the Geneva decision will be. Obviously, for the moment, I am focussing on what was agreed at Sharm, and I will be working with the President [Clinton] in setting up that Commission and sending them in, in the expectation that both sides will cooperate so that we will find out what happened, how we got to where we are and how we draw lessons for the future to ensure it is not repeated.

Q: Israel indicated already last night that they weren't going to cooperate with the Commission in Geneva. I wanted to ask you, to what do you attribute the fact that you had an unusually high profile and were probably the first Secretary-General in many, many years that was accepted by both sides, Israel specifically?

SG: That's a difficult question to answer, and I am not sure if it is a question for me to answer. Let me say that I have tried to work very hard and even- handedly with the parties in search for peace. I think our efforts in southern Lebanon, where we drew the "blue line" defined the conditions for Israeli withdrawal, and encouraged both parties to work with us and respect the "blue line" was an important factor.

I think for the first time in many years Israel did work with us in implementing a UN resolution, and I think in the process perhaps they discovered that the UN can work professionally, can be even-handed and work with parties in implementing resolutions of the Security Council. I suspect that exercise introduced a shift in the region and a shift in the expectations of the United Nations in the region. Thank you.

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