12/03/2002
Press Release
SC/7324



Security Council

4488th Meeting (AM)


‘YOU CAN STILL LEAD YOUR PEOPLES AWAY FROM DISASTER’, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL,

ADDRESSING PALESTINIAN, ISRAELI LEADERS IN SECURITY COUNCIL STATEMENT


Appeals for Arab World Unity behind ‘Vision for Peace’

Provided by Initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia


Addressing the Security Council this morning for the second time in three weeks on a Middle East situation he called “the worst in 10 years”, Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke directly to Chairman Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, saying "You can still lead your peoples away from disaster."  He called on them to immediately take the necessary political, security and economic steps that could help realize the vision for peace in the Middle East.


As the Council met to hear the Secretary-General’s statement, then retire to informal consultations, the Secretary-General noted that both sides had accepted the Tenet understandings and the Mitchell recommendations as a basis for negotiations.  “Today, more than ever, you must recognize that security and a political settlement are indivisible”, he said.  “Many of your friends stand ready to support you if you seize this opportunity”, he added.


He said recent initiatives by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had set out a clear and compelling vision for peace in the Middle East, based on the bedrock of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).  He appealed to the leaders of the Arab world not to give up on the search for peace, but rather to unite in support of the vision.  He also very much welcomed the decision of the United States to send General Zinni back to the region.  Both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon had taken steps to facilitate his efforts, he noted.


Addressing the concerns of both sides, the Secretary-General said to the Palestinians:  “You have the inalienable right to a viable State within secure, internationally recognizable borders.  But you must stop all acts of terror and all suicide bombings.”  The deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of civilians was morally repugnant.  The continued violence was doing immense harm to the Palestinian cause, weakening international support and making the Israelis believe that it was their existence as a State -- not the occupation -- that was being opposed.


To the Israelis, he said:  “You have the right to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.  But you must end the illegal occupation.”  More urgently, Israel must stop the bombing of civilian areas, the assassinations, the unnecessary use of lethal force, the demolitions and the daily humiliation of ordinary Palestinians.  “Such actions gravely erode Israel’s

standing in the international community, and further fuel the fires of hatred, despair and extremism among Palestinians”, he said.


The scale of the carnage was horrifying, he said, noting the number of fatalities on both sides of the conflict, especially those in recent days.  “I grieve as we all must for the families of those who have lost their lives or been maimed or wounded”, he said.  “I grieve for Israel and Palestine.”  He called on the Council to lend its full authority and influence in achieving a resolution to the crisis.


The meeting was called to order at 10:45 a.m. and adjourned at 11 a.m.


Statement Summary


Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that three weeks ago in a meeting on the Middle East he had warned the Council that “we were nearing the abyss”.  Since that day, the toll of dead and wounded had risen to levels that could be described as appalling.  Israeli-Palestinian tensions were at a boiling point and the situation was the worst it had been in 10 years.  Acts that were disproportionate in scale, and indiscriminate in their effect, were occurring on an almost daily basis.


The scale of the carnage was horrifying, he said, noting the number of fatalities on both sides of the conflict.  “I grieve as we all must for the families of those who have lost their lives or been maimed or wounded”, he said.  “I grieve for Israel and Palestine.”  Continuing, he said he was profoundly disturbed by the increasing use of heavy weaponry by Israel in civilian areas.  It had made life even more difficult and precarious for Palestinian civilians who were already subjected to severe physical and economic hardships. 


Large-scale military operations in pursuit of Palestinian militants had taken place throughout civilian areas and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, causing large-scale loss of life, he said.  In addition, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other agencies were reporting growing disregard, on the part of the Israeli Defence Forces, for the safety of medical and ambulance personnel.  Only last week, a United Nations staff member had been killed in a clearly marked UNRWA ambulance.


On their side, the Palestinians had played their full part in the escalating cycle of violence, counter-violence and revenge.  Palestinian groups had carried out a series of attacks on Israeli military and civilian targets.  He was particularly disturbed by suicide attacks which deliberately targeted civilians, spreading fear and anxiety throughout the general population.


Against that backdrop, he very much welcomed the decision of the United States to send General Zinni back to the region.  Both Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had taken steps to facilitate his efforts, he noted.


He hoped the leaders would engage constructively with General Zinni in a renewed and intensified dialogue on the political, security and economic dimensions of the peace process.  The alternative, for both sides, was continued

bloodshed, which would further hinder prospects for an end to the occupation and violence.


Speaking directly to the leaders of both sides of the dispute, the Secretary-General affirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinians to a viable State within secure, internationally recognizable borders.  “But you must stop all acts of terror and all suicide bombings”, he said.  “The deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of civilians is morally repugnant.” 


The continued violence was doing immense harm to the Palestinian cause, he added, weakening international support and making the Israelis believe that it was their existence as a State –- not the occupation –- that was being opposed.


To the Israelis, he said:  “You have the right to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.  But, you must end the illegal occupation.”  More urgently, he said, Israel must stop the bombing of civilian areas, the assassinations, the unnecessary use of lethal force, the demolitions and the daily humiliation of ordinary Palestinians.  “Such actions gravely erode Israel’s standing in the international community, and further fuel the fires of hatred, despair and extremism among Palestinians.”


“To the leaders on both sides -- Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat in particular –- I say, you can still lead your peoples away from disaster”, he said.  Both sides had accepted the Tenet understandings and the Mitchell recommendations as a basis for negotiations.  “Today, more than ever, you must recognize that security and a political settlement are indivisible”, he continued. “One cannot exist without the other.  Many of your friends stand ready to support you if you seize this opportunity.”


The Secretary-General said recent initiatives by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had set out a clear and compelling vision for peace in the Middle East, based on the bedrock of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).  He appealed to the leaders of the Arab world not to give up on the search for peace, but rather to unite in support of that vision -– showing the world and the parties that there was an alternative to war.


Finally, he called on Mr. Arafat and Mr. Sharon to immediately take the necessary political, security and economic steps on the ground, which could help realize the vision for peace.  He also called on the Security Council to lend its full authority and influence to that vital cause. 


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