Israelis and Palestinians should accelerate peace efforts, Annan says

Secretary-General Kofi Annan addressing the General Assembly. (UN/Evan Schneider)


With Palestinians and Israelis gearing up for their respective elections, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging both parties to accelerate existing efforts to build peace and mutual trust. “Their elections will have important repercussions on the peace process,” Mr. Annan said in a message to the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on the Question of Palestine, being held in Caracas, Venezuela.

But he added that the parties must act on their obligations under the Road Map, an outline peace plan which aims to achieve two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side within secure and internationally recognized borders.

“Palestinians need to know that the future viability of a Palestinian State will not be eroded by settlement activity and barrier construction. And Israelis need to be assured that their security will not be compromised by failure to act decisively against terror,” Mr. Annan said in the message, which was delivered by David McLachlan-Karr, the UN Resident Coordinator in Venezuela.

While acknowledging obstacles facing international efforts to engage the parties in political negotiations, the Secretary-General found signs of hope in Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank and the recent agreement on the Rafah crossing.

“These welcome developments, coupled with an end to the closure regime in the West Bank, could bring appreciable change to the daily suffering of ordinary Palestinians,” he said. That is why the Quartet, through its Special Envoy, James Wolfensohn, is working with both sides to ensure that the Rafah agreement is fully enforced.”

But Mr. Annan warned that in order to secure progress on broader issues, the parties must redouble their peace efforts. He reiterated the Quartet’s recent call for renewed action in parallel by both parties to meet their obligations under the Road Map. He also called on Israel to abide by legal obligations set forth in an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which called for an end to the construction of the separation barrier.

Pledging to work for a “comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine,” Mr. Annan said participants could help the parties move towards the shared goal of a sovereign, contiguous and democratic Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN’S MESSAGE TO THE UNITED NATIONS LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN MEETING ON THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE, CARACAS, 13-14 DECEMBER 2004

This meeting, held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, is an important opportunity for the countries of the Latin American and Caribbean region to contribute to the search for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Like all of us, ordinary Israelis and Palestinians yearn to live in peace, prosperity and harmony with each other, and with their neighbours in the region. Yet a solution to their conflict remains elusive. The price of this failure has been unconscionably high: continuing suffering and death for civilians on both sides.

As you know, the international community’s efforts to engage the parties in political negotiations have not been without obstacles. However, recent developments give us some cause for optimism.

In September, Israel completed its disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, setting a hopeful precedent for the future. And last month, Israel and the Palestinian Authority reached an important agreement on the Rafah crossing, which also opened the door to further cooperation on the important issue of access and movement.

These welcome developments, coupled with an end to the closure regime in the West Bank, could bring appreciable change to the daily suffering of ordinary Palestinians. That is why the Quartet, through its Special Envoy, James Wolfensohn, is working with both sides to ensure that the Rafah agreement is fully enforced.

However, if recent events are to stimulate progress on broader issues, it is vital that the parties redouble their efforts to implement the Quartet’s Road Map. It is a plan accepted by both parties, endorsed by the Security Council and supported by the international community. It encompasses clearly specified action on security, Palestinian institution-building, humanitarian response and civil society. It also seeks an end to settlement expansion. It is, in short, the accepted way forward.

Palestinians and Israelis will soon go to the polls. Their elections will have important repercussions on the peace process. However, these upcoming votes should not prevent the parties from accelerating existing efforts to build mutual trust and from acting on their Road Map obligations. Palestinians need to know that the future viability of a Palestinian State will not be eroded by settlement activity and barrier construction. And Israelis need to be assured that their security will not be compromised by failure to act decisively against terror.

I therefore reiterate the Quartet’s recent call for renewed action in parallel by both parties to meet their obligations under the Road Map. I also call on Israel to abide by its legal obligations as set forth in the 9 July 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and in General Assembly resolution ES-10/15.

For my part, I remain fully committed to efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine, based on Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1515 and the principle of land for peace. With your assistance, we can help the parties move towards the shared goal of a sovereign, contiguous and democratic Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

It is in this spirit that I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Related Links

  • UN Question of Palestine