UN Hopes Sharon Gaza Settler Withdrawl Progresses
Annan hopes Sharon’s decision on Gaza pullout offers new dynamic to peace efforts
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today he was “intrigued” by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to withdraw settlers from Gaza, adding that he was hopeful the move would provide a new dynamic in pushing the Middle East peace process forward.
Reacting to the Israeli leader’s announcement, Mr. Annan said he saw the withdrawal from Gaza as a “first essential step,” adding, “If it does take place, it can really be a very important moment and a new dynamic that can propel the process forward.”
Responding to questions from reporters upon arrival at UN Headquarters in New York, the Secretary-General said the topic of the Middle East was discussed during his meetings yesterday in Washington with top officials from the United States.
“We would want, as the Quartet, to be able to do something to move the process forward,” he said, referring to the UN, US, European Union and Russian Federation, which together have sponsored a peace plan known as the Road Map. The plan calls for a series of parallel and reciprocal steps leading to two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace by 2005.
“I was quite intrigued by Prime Minister Sharon’s decision to pull out of Gaza. I think it is a positive development, and I hope the Quartet can work with him in implementing that decision,” Mr. Annan said, adding that withdrawal from the West Bank would also be required to really fulfil the spirit of land for peace.