10 April 2002

Press conference by members of the "Quartet"

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Igor Ivanov, Secretary of State of the United States Colin Powell, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain Josep Pique and High Representative for European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana reviewed the escalating confrontation in the Middle East and agreed to coordinate actions to resolve the current crisis. The following is a statement made by Secretary-General Annan at the start of a press conference following their meeting:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

Before sharing the Joint Statement with you, I would like to say a few words about the grave situation in the Middle East.

We are meeting today against the backdrop of a steadily escalating three-fold crisis in the Middle East. We face continuing intensification of fighting between Israelis and the Palestinians; we face mounting humanitarian and human rights crises in the West Bank and Gaza with enormous suffering for the innocent civilian population caught up in the hostilities; and we face rising tensions throughout the region, particularly along Israel's northern border.

I am, frankly, appalled by the humanitarian situation. The international community demands that the Government of Israel honour its obligation under international law to protect civilians and that the IDF stop the damage to and destruction of civilian and personal property. Respect for international humanitarian law and the humanitarian organizations is the most basic requirement for any nation that lays claim to democracy and membership of the international community. I also call on the donor community to be generous in assisting UNRWA and the other humanitarian organizations in meeting the urgent challenges.

With reference to the disturbances along the Blue Line emanating from Lebanese territory, I call on the Government of Lebanon and all relevant parties to condemn and prevent such violations. The Security Council itself confirmed in June 2000 that Israel had withdrawn from southern Lebanon in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions 425 and 426. Attacks at any point along the Blue Line, including in the Shebaa farms area in the occupied Golan Heights, are violations of Security Council resolutions. Respect for decisions of the Security Council is the most basic requirement of international legitimacy.

Finally, I would like to thank the Government of Spain for hosting us today in Madrid - just over ten years since the Madrid conference set out the essential principles for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

I will now share with you the Communique that we have agreed on.

"We express our grave concern about the present situation, including the mounting humanitarian crisis and the growing risk to regional security. We reiterate our shared condemnation of violence and terrorism, express our deep distress at the loss of innocent Palestinian and Israeli life, and extend our deepest sympathy to the families of those killed and wounded. Believing that there has been too much suffering and too much bloodshed, we call on the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to act in the interests of their own people, the region, and the international community and to immediately halt this senseless confrontation.

In this regard, we express our grave concern about the most recent attacks from Lebanon across the UN-determined Blue Line. The Quartet calls on all parties to respect the Blue Line, halt all attacks, and show the utmost restraint. The conflict should not be allowed to spread and threaten regional security and stability.

The UN, EU and Russia express their strong support for Secretary of State Powell's mission, and urge Israel and the Palestinian Authority to cooperate fully with his mission and with their continuing efforts to restore calm and resume a political process.

We reiterate that there is no military solution to the conflict and call on the parties to move towards a political resolution of their disputes based on UNSCR 242 and 338, and the principle of land for peace - which formed the basis for the Madrid Conference of 1991. We re-affirm our support to the objective expressed by President Bush and spelled out in UNSCR 1397, of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side within secure and recognized borders. We warmly welcome Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's peace initiative, as endorsed in Beirut by the Arab League, as a significant contribution towards a comprehensive peace, including Syria and Lebanon.

To enable progress towards our shared goals, we reaffirm that UNSCR 1402 must be fully implemented immediately, as called for in UNSCR 1403. We call on Israel to halt immediately its military operations. We call for an immediate, meaningful cease-fire and an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah, specifically including Chairman Arafat's headquarters. We call on Israel to fully comply with international humanitarian principles and to allow full and unimpeded access to humanitarian organizations and services. We call on Israel to refrain from the excessive use of force and undertake all possible efforts to ensure the protection of civilians.

We call on Chairman Arafat, as the recognized, elected leader of the Palestinian people, to undertake immediately the maximum possible effort to stop terror attacks against innocent Israelis. We call on the Palestinian Authority to act decisively and take all possible steps within its capacity to dismantle terrorist infrastructure, including terrorist financing, and to stop incitement to violence. We call on Chairman Arafat to use the full weight of his political authority to persuade the Palestinian people that any and all terrorist attacks against Israelis should end immediately; and to authorize his representatives to resume immediately security coordination with Israel.

Terrorism, including suicide bombs, is illegal and immoral, has inflicted grave harm to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and must be condemned as called for in UNSCR 1373.

We call on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach agreement on cease-fire proposals put forward by General Zinni without further delay. We commend the efforts of General Zinni to date to achieve this objective.

The Quartet stands ready to assist the parties in implementing their agreements, in particular the Tenet security workplan and the Mitchell recommendations, including through a third-party mechanism, as agreed to by the parties.

We affirm that the Tenet and Mitchell plans must be fully implemented, including an end to all settlement activity. We affirm that there must be immediate, parallel and accelerated movement towards near-term and tangible political progress, and that there must be a defined series of steps leading to permanent peace - involving recognition, normalization and security between the sides, an end to Israeli occupation, and an end to the conflict. This will allow Israel to enjoy enduring peace and security and the Palestinian people to realize their hopes and aspirations in security and dignity.

In support of these objectives, we call on the international community, particularly the Arab states, to preserve, strengthen and assist the Palestinian Authority, including through efforts to rebuild its infrastructure, security and governance capacity. We call also on the donor community and the international financial institutions to renew their commitment to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, and to assist in economic and institutional reconstruction. We pay tribute to the courageous efforts of the humanitarian agencies.

We agreed on the need to keep the situation in the Middle East under review by the Quartet at the principal's level through regular consultations. Our Special Envoys will continue their efforts on the ground to assist the parties in reaching an end to confrontation and resumption of political negotiations."

The Minister reminded me to share with you that the Quartet is hoping to meet fairly shortly and we are going to remain consistently seized of the problem. Of course Secretary Powell, as I said, is going with our full support. Depending on the outcome of his mission, we will meet sooner than later.

Q: I would like to ask Mr. Annan to respond to the latest terror attack in Haifa.

SG: I would say that obviously the situation is very grave, the humanitarian situation, I suspect that none of us will know the full gravity of the situation until we gain access to all the territories that are now a theatre of battle. But I have a sense that we will be shocked by what we see. We are getting too many independent reports for it not to be credible. But let me say that on the question of the suicides attacks, I think the statement that I read made it quite clear that it is morally repugnant and should be condemned and no one can defend it. Attacks against innocent and unarmed civilians is terrorism that we cannot tolerate.

Q: Mr. Annan, please, Secretary of State told us yesterday that he is making an effort, the U.S. to have Syria and Iran do what they could, militia to restrain activist, terrorist, pick your word. How do you feel about Syria's behavior? Is this something that you would support -- that Syria and Iran should do what they can to curb particularly in Lebanon?

SG: I have in recent days and weeks been in touch with the leaders in the region particularly with regard the Blue Line, which as you know was traced by the UN, and I have spoken to the President Asad, Prime Minister Hariri and President Lahoud and with Foreign Minister Peres about doing everything possible to keep the border quiet, because no one wants to open a second front and the leaders have given me the assurance that they are going to do whatever they can to respect the Blue Line and the Security Council has itself indicated that these violations must cease. I have not spoken to Iran recently on this specific issue but we had a chance to talk in the past.

Q: Mr. Secretary talked several times about the physical destruction of the Palestinian Authority. What Palestinian institutions do you believe need to be rebuilt, how soon and by whom?

SG: I was going to say that in addition to what Secretary Powell has said, we also have to remember that there is a really deplorable economic and social situation in the occupied territories now. Where we would also have to step up our assistance to the Palestinians to get them into meaningful activities when the violence subsides as well as rebuild all the infrastructure and governance apparatus that Secretary Powell has referred to. So we have lots of work to do, but we must first get the violence down. Thank you. *****