Kofi Annan urges media to refrain from myths, hate propaganda in message to international media seminar

At a time of heightened opportunity for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict, the United Nations Department of Public Information, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, is organizing an International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East in Cairo, Egypt, on 13-14 June. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan conveyed a message to the participants, which was delivered by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.  Mr. Tharoor also moderated the seminar.

The seminar was inaugurated by Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.  Alvaro de Soto, the newly appointed United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian National Authority, delivered a keynote address.

Among the international experts on the Middle East attending the seminar are Ghassan Al-Khatib, Minister of Planning, Palestinian National Authority; Amin Al-Hindi, Adviser to the President of the Palestinian National Authority; Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Katz, both former Members of the Knesset in Israel; Ilan Pappe, Senior Lecturer at Haifa University in Israel; Aaron David Miller, President of Seeds of Peace and adviser to the past six United States Secretaries of State on Arab-Israeli negotiations; Chinmaya Gharekhan, Special Envoy of India for West Asia and the Middle East Peace Process; Bernardino Leon Gross, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Spain; and Clayton Swisher, Director of Programmes at the Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C.

Also taking part in the discussions are some 25 senior representatives of the media from the Middle East, Europe and other regions of the world.

Under the overall theme “Reinvigorating the Peace Process:  The Role of International and Regional Actors in Facilitating a Comprehensive, Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East”, the seminar provides a forum for media representatives and international experts to present their perspectives on international and regional involvement in pursuing a peaceful solution to the conflict and the prospects for peace in the region, and to discuss the role of the media in preventing or exacerbating the conflict.

The international media seminar, the thirteenth in a series launched in 1991 by DPI, is taking place in response to General Assembly resolution 59/30, which mandates the Department of Public Information to organize international, regional and national seminars or encounters for journalists, aiming, in particular, at sensitizing public opinion to the question of Palestine.  In the past, such encounters have taken place in Helsinki (1991), Lisbon (1992), London (1993), Elsinore, Denmark (1994), Athens (1997), Prague and New Delhi (1998), Madrid (1999), Paris (2001), Copenhagen (2002), Seville (2003) and Beijing (2004).

Message UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East: “Reinvigorating the Peace Process: The Role of International and Regional Actors in Facilitating a Comprehensive, Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East”, delivered by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, in Cairo, 13 June:

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to all those who have gathered in Cairo for this timely media seminar on peace in the Middle East.

Since the last such seminar, the political situation in the region has improved, thanks to the historic Palestinian elections in January, Palestinian security reforms, the understandings reached at Sharm el-Sheik and the preparations for an Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank. Unfortunately, we have also seen a slow but steady increase in violent incidents in recent weeks, underlining the fragility of the moment. That only makes it more urgent that, despite hardship and fear, we take advantage of the revived spirit of cooperation and keep our eyes on our long-standing objective: two states, Israel and a sovereign, viable, contiguous and democratic Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

I have urged Palestinians to do more to prevent acts of violence and terror. I have also continued to stress the need to avoid unilateral actions, such as the Israeli Barrier and continued settlement expansion, that could prejudge the resolution of final status issues or the implementation of UN resolutions. The new United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Alvaro de Soto, has taken up his duties and is making his initial contacts with all relevant parties. He is with you today and will brief you on his first impressions. The Quartet, for its part, continues to press both sides to respect their obligations under the Road Map, and through its Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement, James Wolfensohn, is showing its determination to make that step unfold smoothly, in a way that helps Palestinian economic recovery and builds momentum for the peace process.

Indeed, when the peace process is moving forward, much seems possible. But when it stands still, the parties are actually moving backward, as positions harden, resentment builds, opportunities are missed, and the slightest provocation or misunderstanding risks sparking great damage. Such has been the experience, all too often, with the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

The people of the Middle East are now approaching a number of important turning points. With help from their regional and international partners, they can prevent a slide back into conflict and confrontation. And with help from responsible media — media that refrain from myths, stereotypes and hate propaganda –- they can avoid inflaming an already volatile climate. Indeed, let us all do our part to make recent events a new start on the road towards a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Thank you again for participating in this seminar and for your commitment to that goal, upon which so much depends.

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