Mideast Status Quo 'Unacceptable',

Agence France Presse
June 16, 2004

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan called the status quo in the Middle East "unacceptable," slamming efforts to implement a roadmap for peace as "deeply unsatisfactory." "The road back to the roadmap will be difficult," Annan said in a message delivered in his absence at a UN-sponsored Mideast seminar in Beijing. "But the status quo is simply unacceptable."

The roadmap, drafted by a diplomatic quartet consisting of the United Nations, United States, Russia and the European Union, was endorsed by both Israelis and Palestinians last June. Since then, however, the roadmap, which envisions a Palestinian state by 2005, has languished, although efforts have been made to breathe new life into it.

"Despite the clarity of the quartet's roadmap, despite its acceptance by both sides, and despite the reciprocal and reasonable nature of the steps it calls for to realize the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in security, efforts to implement it remain deeply unsatisfactory," Annan said.

The quartet recently moved to revive the roadmap by endorsing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip. Despite the new efforts to reinvigorate the quartet process, Annan said he was discouraged by mounting instances of violence in the tortured region.

"I know you share with me my profound distress at the stalled political process, at the fear and bitterness that prevails on both sides, and at the escalation of violence and destruction that we have seen in recent weeks," he said. In the most recent example of violence, Israeli special forces clad in Arab clothes on Wednesday killed a Palestinian militant in a restaurant in the West Bank town of Jenin, according to Palestinian security officials.

Terje Roed-Larsen, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, warned that inaction could further deteriorate the situation. "If we don't act, things will get worse," Roed-Larsen said in a speech that was also delivered on his behalf at the Beijing seminar. "Some people think the situation has reached such a low point that it can't deteriorate further. It can."

Roed-Larsen argued that a two-state solution was the only way forward if the complex Middle East crisis were to be solved. "Some would even call for abandoning the two-states solution altogether. I caution against those arguments," he said. "The two-states solution, despite all its pitfalls, remains the only solution that can truly achieve the national aspirations of both peoples and win enough support among Israelis and Palestinians."

He noted that the international community had welcomed the Israeli plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip as an opportunity to resume the peace process, "leading up to the end of the occupation of the Palestinian territory". "But for this to happen, each side has to do its part," he said. "Although the initiative is unilateral, its application requires cooperation between all sides, including the international community."

Israel must ensure it is accompanied by "similar measures" in the West Bank, and should not assume that it can substitute for compliance with other obligations related to settlement expansion, he said.

The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, should establish security controls in the vacated areas, and move to make the Gaza withdrawal "a moment of optimism rather than an additional problem," he said.

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on Israel, Palestine and the Occupied Territories
More Information on the "Peace Process"

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