Secretary-General deeply concerned by escalating Middle East violence

File photo: Meeting of the diplomatic Quartet at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 4 May 2004. The Quartet is the sponsor of the Road Map peace plan. (UN/Eskinder Debebe)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the other principles of the Diplomatic Quartet today consulted on the latest violence in the Middle East, condemning Wednesday’s terrorist attack in Israel claimed by the Damascus-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad and calling on Syria to take immediate action against the group.

Mr. Annan spoke by telephone from New York with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

“The Quartet urges the Syrian Government to take immediate action to close the offices of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and to prevent the use of its territory by armed groups engaged in terrorist acts,” a statement said.

“The Quartet denounces all acts of terrorism and urges all parties to exercise restraint, avoid an escalation of violence, and keep channels of communication open. The Quartet strongly encourages and supports the Palestinian Authority in its immediate effort to take steps to prevent armed groups from acting against law and order and the policy of the Authority itself.”

The Quartet has sponsored the Road Map for Middle East Peace, which calls for a series of parallel steps leading to two States living side-by-side in peace, originally by the end of this year.

“The Quartet believes it is imperative that all involved act decisively to ensure that terror and violence are not allowed to undermine further progress in accordance with the Road Map,” the statement concluded.

In a separate statement, Secretary-General Kofi Annan voiced deep concern at the further escalation of violence in the past 24 hours in the Middle East, deploring action taken in Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza on Wednesday.

“Extra-judicial killings are not consistent with international law,” a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in New York, reminding Israel of its obligation to take all precautions to ensure that non-combatants are not harmed, and calling on both parties to take all steps possible to prevent further violence.

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