HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Friday, April 23, 2004
PEACE EFFORTS IN MIDDLE EAST AT CRUCIAL JUNCTURE
- In his periodic briefing given to the Security Council, UN Envoy Terje Roed Larsen focused on what he sees as a crucial and potentially seminal juncture for peace efforts in the Middle East.
- A critical lesson, he said, from the last three years of violence is that only an overall political settlement can reverse the deteriorating humanitarian, security and economic situation.
- Turning to the proposed Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Larsen said if it is carried out in the right way it can usher a new era of peacemaking in the region. If, however, it is done the wrong way, it will only lead to new violence.
- The right way, Larsen told the Council, is for the withdrawal to be a complete end to the occupation and not just a military redeployment with Palestinians gaining control over their affairs in Gaza.
- He went on to say that one way to address Israeli security concerns after a withdrawal would be through temporary and internationally supervised security arrangements, with the consent of the parties. The withdrawal should also be accompanied by the implementation of Israeli and Palestinian obligations under the Road Map.
- The international community, he said, will not prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations. Those are matters for the parties.
- As a member of the Quartet, Larsen added, the United Nations, emphasizes that no declared views on the possible shape of a final settlement can pre-empt the negotiation of that settlement. This would destroy the hope that drives the Road Map and erode the parties’ ability to perform the tasks it stipulates.
- The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Larsen said, sets the stage for the next step of the Council’s stewardship over the peace process. He suggested that the withdrawal could be supervised and certified by the United Nations, as was the case with the Israeli pull-back from Southern Lebanon in 2000.
- In closing, he told the Council that crucial choices lie ahead for all concerned: the Israelis, the Palestinians and the International Community. For the latter, the choice is between vigorous involvement in helping transform the Gaza initiative into a full implementation of the Road Map or standing by and watching events as they unfold.
- The open session of the Security Council was presided over by Minister of State of Germany Kerstin Müller.
- Following the meeting, Council members moved into closed consultations during which a draft resolution on the Middle East was circulated by Algeria.
- Asked whether the Secretary-General shared Larsen’s views on the possible need for an international presence in Gaza, the Spokesman said that the UN position for some time has been that an international presence could be helpful. The form of such a presence is for the Security Council to consider.
- Asked about recent comments made by Special Adviser Lakhdar Brahimi on the Middle East, the Spokesman said that Brahimi, a former Foreign Minister of Algeria, brings to the table strongly-held and strongly-expressed opinions about the Middle East peace process. However, the official position of the United Nations on such matters is that set out by the Secretary-General in numerous statements issued by him over the past seven years.
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